Professional Singer and New Mom Doesnt let Cancer Stop Her

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CONTACT: Tami Barto
         Marketing Director, Wilshire Oncology Medical Group, Inc.
         (909) 908-0156

Professional Singer and New Mom Doesn’t let Cancer Stop Her-
Performs for Clint Eastwood in New Film

        Jenifer Menedis’ (Condon) Great Grandmother, Grandmother, Mom and
Aunt all had cancer. “I always thought I’d have it someday, but when I am older,
like 50,” said 32-year-old Jenifer. Unfortunately, young women can and DO get
breast cancer – it’s not just an old woman’s disease. Jenifer was diagnosed with
Breast Cancer and a mastectomy was performed on May 23, 2005 when she
was 25 weeks pregnant with her second child. Her first child, Nicholas was only
a year old and Jenifer’s husband, Dwayne, was understandably shocked by the
news.
        After surgery to remove the cancerous area, Dr. Bill Tang, her
obstetrician, referred Jenifer to Dr. Cary Presant, a medical oncologist with
Wilshire Oncology Medical Group. “I was very scared when Dr. Presant told me I
would have chemotherapy while I was still pregnant, but I wanted to do whatever
I had to so I can see my babies grow up,” explained Jenifer. Everyone was very
surprised when she tolerated the treatments so well. The first plan was to have
minimal chemotherapy and then take the baby early, so she could continue her
life-saving treatment. There has been research on chemotherapy’s effect on a
fetus and it is believed to be safe, but of course they had to wait a few anxious
months before the birth to know for sure. Because she tolerated treatment so
well, she was able to have three rounds of chemotherapy, and then a cesarean
section was to be performed on August 4, 2005. The baby’s original due date
was September 3, 2005, but on August 1, 2005, Sophia was born without
needing a cesarean and was healthy and strong. “My miracle baby’s gift to me
was that I was spared another surgery,” said Jenifer. Many tears were shed in
the delivery room by the very relieved parents. Jenifer said, “I was in great
hands. All my doctors communicated with each other. The obstetrician,
perinatologist, oncologist and pediatrician were all such a great team.” Born at 5
pounds 1 ounce, Sophia was able to leave the hospital with her Mom after many
precautionary tests were done to confirm her health. Four days after the birth,
Jenifer was able to have a PET/CT scan to see if the chemotherapy was working,
and thankfully they got the great news that it was indeed doing the job.
        More chemotherapy followed, but Jenifer’s positive attitude, her families’
support and her wonderful and powerful church family made it all tolerable.
Jenifer and Dwayne are both professional musicians and singers. They have
been married for six years, and in addition to Nicholas and baby Sophia,
Dwayne’s children from a previous marriage, Patrick and Caitlin are a big part of
the support team. On October 11, 2005, Jenifer had her last chemotherapy. “I’m
so lucky,” she said, “Even with no hair, and no bust, when I didn’t feel very
attractive, my wonderful husband continued to make me feel beautiful.”
        Jenifer has always made her living singing and on September 16, 2005
she got a call from her agent at Tribute Productions that she got a part in a new
film called “Flags of Our Fathers” directed by Clint Eastwood. Portraying one of
the three women in a signing group similar to the Andrew Sisters, Jenifer and her
red wig, got to be in two different scenes. Obviously, having cancer, surgery,
treatment and giving birth have not slowed her down! “I’ve always exercised and
danced which I think have helped me stay in shape and keep my energy up.
Fatigue is the biggest obstacle, but I don’t know if I’m tired due to the chemo or
from just having two little ones to attend to,” she explained. She is working on a
CD in which she sings “Little Star” an inspirational song written by her friend,
Diedre Lang.
        More surgery is in Jenifer’s future. Soon she will have a mastectomy on
her remaining breast and her ovaries removed to cut down on the chances that
her cancer will return. She also plans on having reconstructive surgery on both
breasts. Genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation is also
planned for her and her sister. “I worry about my younger sister. She just had
her first baby girl right before I got diagnosed. Genetic testing is very important
for both daughters sake,” she said. The future looks very promising for Jenifer
and her family. New drugs that are more effective and cause less side-effects
have enabled women like Jenifer to carry on with their lives and to plan for a
future where cancer can be treated like other chronic illnesses.
        Dr. Presant is so proud that he was able to guide Jenifer’s care and
support her family during this very stressful time in their lives. He said, “I believe
in finding out what’s most important in my patient’s life, then tailoring life-saving
treatment to enable them to continue experiencing it. My patients are like family
and hugs are just as important as the state-of-the-art care we provide.”
Treatment and innovative therapies have come a long way in the past 40 years
and so many people are now benefiting by the strides that have been made in
the war against cancer.
        October was breast cancer awareness month. Please be aware that all
women are risk. Even if you are a young woman, but you have a strong family
history, like Jenifer did, see your physician immediately if you notice any changes
in your breast – it may save your life.

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posted:2/27/2010
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