Faith and Grace: The Fight of Her Life

Jessica Lemon doesn't have the typical demeanor of what one would call a fighter. Her gentle face and even gentler voice belie a core that is caring, spiritual, maybe even somewhat timid. That is until she tells her story. The 48-year-old grandmother of two is battling with cancer for the second time. Slightly more than five years ago, Lemon was diagnosed with breast cancer, for which she received rigorous treatments and was ultimately “cured.”

Jessica Lemon, Denise Kaley Fund recipient“I was fine, I was good to go,” Lemon says. “But then, a few months ago, I was in so much pain, I thought I pulled a muscle in my back. I went in for an x-ray expecting that to be the case. That's when they told me that my cancer had metastasized to a place very near to my spine, and that there were also spots on my liver.”

So, the cycle began again for Lemon, but this time the cancer, as well as the treatment, was much more aggressive. As daunting as the numbers are, nearly 150,000 Americans are living with metastatic breast cancer, Lemon is determined not to be laid low by the disease that she had come so close to conquering years before.

“The doctors tell me to do something, I'll do it. I'll do whatever they say will fix me.”

“Fixing” Jessica is an ongoing and arduous process. One summer was devoted almost entirely to radiation and intravenous chemotherapy treatment. Once those ended in September, Lemon began taking chemotherapy pills every other week, a treatment which she continued for several months.

“The pills are working really well, together with the first treatments,” she says with genuine strength in her voice. “My numbers have gone down a lot and I'm much better than I was two months ago. Before, I couldn't walk or lift my arms to do the dishes. Of course, the chemo pills make me feel yucky. I sleep a lot and my back gets tired really easily.”

The toll of the cancer, as well as the treatment, hit Jessica hard (as it does many women with cancer). She had to leave her decade-long position as a post office contractor, and of course, money became a huge problem. Not long after quitting her job, Lemon found herself in a state of anxiety over her financial burdens. When she told Kathy Hart, who heads up the Women's Imaging Center at Berkshire Medical Center about her everyday struggles, Hart immediately recommended that she apply for the Denise Kaley Fund for Berkshire County Women with Cancer that provides support for the day to day living expenses of women who are struggling financially while undergoing treatment.

“They helped me with my mortgage and that bought me some time so that I was able to sign up for disability,” Lemon says. “And my application went through very quickly. The Denise Kaley Fund wants to help. And they want to help right now.”

Lemon's struggle is not over yet, as she continues to battle fatigue, worry and some memory loss. But the support that she receives from friends, family and the community (along with meditation and a watercolor class), is, she said, the cornerstone of her cure.

The Denise Kaley Fund, a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation was established by the late Denise Kaley a few months before her death from lung cancer to support the day to day living expenses of women in financial need with cancer in Berkshire County. These expenses may include the costs of transportation, housing, food, utilities, child care, insurance payments and other costs in order to help the patient focus on healing.

Please note: Patient may not apply directly to BTCF for funding. A client advocate must apply on their behalf. For more information please read the application guidelines.

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Photo by John Dolan. Story by Nichole Dupont