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Published: 1/1/2010

Woman greets New Year without a trace of cancer

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Part of the proceeds from ‘A Mommy Can Love You From Anywhere' will help families struggling with cancer. Part of the proceeds from ‘A Mommy Can Love You From Anywhere' will help families struggling with cancer.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

For 30-year-old Jenny Sugg, much of 2009 is a blur of hospital stays and treatments for advanced breast cancer, including full brain radiation.

But Mrs. Sugg clearly remembers Dec. 22. That day, the Toledo mother of two found out the latest PET scan of her body shows no evidence of the stage IV breast cancer that had invaded her bones, liver, and lungs.

The news launched a series of holiday parties for Mrs. Sugg, her husband, Mike, and their children, Jon, 7, and Sammy, 2 1/2, all of whom are starting off the New Year in Florida. And it capped a year in which Mrs. Sugg was in and out of hospitals between February and August to have a blockage in her liver cleared with a stent, her lungs drained of fluid, and other treatments.

"We were close to losing Jenny, I think," Mr. Sugg recalled.

Mrs. Sugg added: "That's the first time I've been scared. Just, I don't know: We got a Christmas miracle."

Soon after giving birth to Sammy, Mrs. Sugg was diagnosed in June, 2007, with stage IV breast cancer that had spread to her bones and liver. The Suggs were living in Akron but they moved back to Toledo to be near their families as Mrs. Sugg sought chemotherapy for the disease.

Still weakened by chemotherapy, Mrs. Sugg will need cancer treatments indefinitely, which she has known since she was diagnosed. Her latest MRI showed the lesion on her brain was shrinking, but it will be a while before the Suggs know how well last year's intense radiation treatments worked, she said.

Yet Mrs. Sugg has shed the oxygen she needed around the clock, and she is able to sleep in her own bed instead of the hospital bed that had been moved in. There still may be cancer cells too small to show up on Mrs. Sugg's latest body scan, but she and medical professionals are elated.

"I felt like I got a Christmas present that day, just to be able to give her the news," said Sue Mahoney-Stombaugh, a nurse practitioner at Toledo Clinic's Secor Road office who works with oncologist Dr. Rex Mowat.

Only time will tell what 2010 holds for Mrs. Sugg, said Ms. Mahoney-Stombaugh, who described her patient as phenomenal, courageous, and determined.

"She has a bad disease," Ms. Mahoney-Stombaugh said. "Right now, she's holding her own, and that's good."

Mrs. Sugg also is thinking beyond herself and her young family, Ms. Mahoney-Stombaugh and others said. Roughly 600 people were members of her Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio Race for the Cure team in 2008, becoming the largest team in the fund-raiser's history, and more than 400 people joined her last year.

Knowing that an advanced cancer support group specifically for patients such as herself helped her while living in Akron, Mrs. Sugg worked with the Victory Center in Sylvania Township to start up one. The first meeting of the group for area residents with metastatic or recurrent cancer is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Victory Center, 5532 West Central Ave., Suite B.

"She so impressed us with her tenacity," Penny McCloskey, Victory Center program director, said. "While she's trying to help herself, she's trying to help other people."

The support group, which will meet the first Tuesday of every month, complements a weekly group at the Victory Center, Ms. McCloskey said. Anyone with cancer can attend sessions for that support group, which meets at 6 p.m. every Wednesday.

Mrs. Sugg also wrote a self-published book for her children, called A Mommy Can Love You From Anywhere, to help bring comfort to families. The book is available for $40 at amommycanloveyoufromanywhere.com and part of the proceeds will go to the Victory Center and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The book outlines different times and signs of a mother's love. Even when doctors can no longer fix the "sickies" and she goes to heaven, children can look for signs of that love in butterflies and elsewhere, it says.

Some day, Mrs. Sugg said, she will have to decide whether it's time to watch over her children from heaven. But there will be no negative talk, she said.

"At my funeral, no one is allowed to say I lost my battle," she said. "The day you're diagnosed and you decide to get out of bed, you've won the battle."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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