DAYTON — Her doctor calls her Mighty Mouse. Her husband refers to her as the Energizer Bunny. But Jennifer Bailey, battling stage 4 cancer for nearly five years, doesn't see any option except to fight.“I don't want to give up,” she said. “I don't see any point in it.”She leaves work as a librarian at Riverview Elementary School early on Thursdays to undergo chemotherapy. She has lost her hair from radiation treatments and no longer bothers with a wig. “Other children might become sick at some point. I have several who have gone bald,” Bailey said. “I want to inspire children that bald is beautiful. It is fine.”Not only does she endure her illness while managing work and home life, she does so with a bright, ever-present smile. “You either get sad or you get happy,” she said. “I love my life.”Bailey, 44, was breast-feeding her son, who is now 12, when she noticed a lump. Doctors diagnosed it as mastitis, a swelling of the breast tissue fairly common in breast-feeding mothers. She asked for a mammogram and says she was refused. But she persisted. “I knew my body, and it just didn't feel right,” Bailey said. Finally, she found herself in the surgeon's office, where he assured her she had nothing to worry about, she said.“Sitting on the doctor's table, I crossed my arms and would not leave until he did something,” Bailey recalled. “I was determined.”At her insistence, he performed a biopsy. “Two days later, he called,” she said. “He was in tears. It was cancer.”After a full mastectomy and a round of chemo, she was in remission. To celebrate, she and her daughter, now 15, rode horses across portions of the Tahoe Rim Trail. But about two years later, they learned the cancer had returned. This time, it was in her brain, bones and lymph nodes.Specialized surgeries on her brain coupled with radiation held the cancer at bay. However, damage during the procedures left her with limited movement on her right side.While she worked part time for a year, she returned to full time and has continued to drive to Dayton from her Carson City home ever since. “I love my job,” she said. “As soon as I get over Dump Hill, I forget about cancer. What would I do at home?”Friends have been impressed by her courage.“Considering all that she has gone through, she is extremely amazing and still pressing on,” said former co-worker Carole Romanowitz. “She is always upbeat, does her very best to go on with her life raising her two children with her husband and teaching, even though every day is a challenge.”Romanowitz set up a housecleaning service for Bailey a few years back, where friends and neighbors would send me money each month to keep it going.“She was very grateful,” Romanowitz said, “but I was not able to continue it indefinitely.”And now Bailey's financial situation has become even more strained. Through her own insurance and the secondary insurance through her husband, Chuck's, state job, they were able to pay for the necessary procedures. However, recent cuts at the state eliminated supplemental insurance, leaving the family struggling to pay medical bills. Bailey's principal set up an account for donations to help the Bailey family.“We keep praying for a miracle for her,” Romanowitz said. “I keep asking God why He would have her go through this for so many years if he did not have a plan for a cure for Jennifer.”Bailey said it was discouraging to lose the insurance, but she remains optimistic for her future, having already outlived expectations. “I have to be alive,” she said. “I love my kids and my husband and my job. Life is great.”HOW TO HELPTo help Jennifer Bailey's family pay for medical costs, donate to Bank of America account No. 501014898778.
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