In the past year, Bev Jorgensen of North Bend has taken an eventful journey, accompanied by many from the Upper Valley community. Last January, she helped kick off the 15th season of the Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life, and in February, she was among several Relay for Life committee members to accept the city of North Bend’s Organization of the Year award. Leading up to the Relay in July, she had fundraisers, team captains meetings and a survivors lunch to make happen, then finally, the big event, held July 9 at Tollgate Farm Park.
Only this year, that wasn’t the biggest event for Jorgensen. That honor goes to Nov. 22, the day, just about five months after being diagnosed with cancer, that Jorgensen was declared cancer-free.
With her usual humility, Jorgensen, for 10 years the face of the fight against cancer in the Snoqualmie Valley, agreed to share the details of her own fight.
“I had the large B-cell non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma,” she said. “There was a tumor in my stomach. It’s a blood cancer.”
Sitting in her North Bend home, wrapped in a neon green blanket and her fingernails painted a bright red, Jorgensen looks changed by her illness, but she sounds just like the same old Bev, focused on Relay for Life, thankful for the family and close friends who have helped her through several very difficult months, starting in early summer.
“I was losing weight,” she said, which she thought was a good thing, because she’d been trying to do that already, but this weight loss came with nausea.
It was the height of the Relay events season, and she was busy, so, “I think I did what many of us are guilty of. I put it aside,” she said.
After Relay, she promised herself, she’d see a doctor. She almost made it.
Her first trip to the emergency room — before Relay — resulted in her scheduling an endoscopy. After Relay and after that test, doctors ordered a PET scan and after that, with most of her family at her side, she got her diagnosis.
It was a surprise, she admitted. “Even when I went to the doctor, cancer wasn’t in my mind.”
“The doctor confirmed with us …. his suspicion was right, but he did say ‘Let me tell you, if you could pick a cancer to get, this is a good one. You’re going to get over it.’ Well, I did get over the cancer, but now I’m paying for it with the after-effects of chemo.”
A blockage in her abdomen and the harsh effects of the drugs used to treat the cancer made eating and drinking a painful and dangerous chore for Jorgensen. When she was declared cancer free, she said, “I expected to be in the kitchen making cookies at Christmas time.” She was looking forward to having her four sons and her daughter, and their families, all together at Christmas. Her three oldest boys all live in the area. Her youngest, Greg, has been living with his sister in Wenatchee much of the past year.
Instead, she was back in the hospital, after another trip to the emergency room.
“My stomach had become so fragile, every time they touched it, it would bleed,” Jorgensen explained. “They called it ‘friable.’”
Since Dec. 1, Jorgensen has been on a completely restricted diet; she can’t take anything by mouth, not even water or ice chips. Instead, for about 12 hours a day, she gets total parenteral nutrition, or TPN, a system of feeding that skips the digestive tract entirely.
Most of the time, it’s not a problem, Jorgensen said, but several weeks ago, she needed to take a probiotic, which couldn’t be given intravenously, and she was allowed “one swallow of water,” to take the pill.
“Well, that was a little slice of heaven,” she recalled, and she asked the nurse to take the rest of the water away.
Jorgensen misses the active life that was her routine as a Partylite consultant and Relay representative.
“I was diagnosed late July, started chemo in August, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the hospital and in rehab, so I didn’t have that opportunity to be out in the community, like so many people who are battling cancer. They went on with their lives, but…. My life kind of had to stop.”
Mentally, Jorgensen is ready to get back to her old habits, and back to work on Relay events.
“I’m feeling restless. I want to drive my car, I want to have lunch with friends, even if I can’t eat.”
Physically, she’s working toward those same goals and is planning to be on a team, at the Relay for Life again this year, as well as serving as the mistress of ceremonies, as she did for the kick-off event, Jan. 24.
“I was worried I’d be way too emotional at the kick off,” she said. “I didn’t want to make it about me. But I held it together pretty well… It puts a different light on it when you talk about survivors and realize that you’re going to be walking that lap with them.”
Relay for Life is set for July 8 this year, at Tollgate Farm Park. Learn more at http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY17GW?pg=entry&fr_id=80662.
A crowdfunding campaign has been set up to help Jorgensen with her medical costs, at https://www.gofundme.com/2eyg66jw.