Jennifer Buresh, a Lincoln Associate who has been with Nelnet for over three years, oversees call center training for multiple business lines. While she works each day to train associates to provide the best possible customer experience for consumers, the Supervisor of Global Training and Development has also been fighting cancer.
Earlier this year, Jennifer was diagnosed with the most common type of thyroid cancer, papillary thyroid carcinoma. Jennifer avoided going to the doctor for months, thinking that the lump on her throat wasn’t serious and would eventually disappear. After being urged by friends to visit the doctor, she finally gave in. Multiple tests and appointments later, Jennifer discovered that the lump was cancerous.
Jennifer knew telling her loved ones would be some of the most difficult conversations she would have to have.
“I spent time rehearsing and preparing my husband, parents, and siblings to know that the conversation of me being diagnosed with cancer could be coming. My daughters were on spring break and were home during the day, so it was perfect timing to be able to tell them in person,” Jennifer said. “Those I couldn’t tell in person, other close friends and family, I had to call. I wouldn’t want them to find out any other way. We made a list of those closest to us to make sure we contacted as many of them as we could. The whole day was surreal and bizarre for us.”
Her situation affected relationships outside of family and friends, including coworkers. She knew from day one she would be dedicated to keeping up with her workload, even if that meant working from home for an extended period of time. One part of Jennifer’s treatment involved radioactive iodine therapy which forced her to isolate herself to protect her friends and family from the dangers of radiation.
“Everything that I touched could potentially become radioactive and despite wearing gloves most of the time, I still had to dispose of many personal and work items. Nelnet gave me a laptop that was going to be thrown away anyway; they were very flexible and great with me. I was able to go about my day and make it as normal as possible.”
In addition to her radioactive iodine therapy, Jennifer underwent a total thyroidectomy and a right neck dissection. As a result of these procedures, her entire thyroid and about 30 lymph nodes were removed. Jennifer will have a thyroid replacement for the rest of her life and is currently undergoing physical therapy to rehabilitate the shoulder nerve that was damaged in surgery.
Jennifer’s message throughout her battle with cancer is a simple one, but also one that cannot be stressed enough.
“Check your neck! I had a lump for several months in my neck. I didn’t think it was urgent because I didn’t know a lump in the neck was a symptom of cancer. Since putting my story on my personal Facebook page, I’ve had three friends also be diagnosed with cancer, because they didn’t know a neck lump could be so serious,” Jennifer said. “It’s so simple if people are aware.”
She also mentioned there are a variety of other health issues that stem from the thyroid. “If something feels off, see a physician and be your own health advocate.”
Jennifer is able to stay motivated in her fight because of the amazing support system around her.
“My loved ones, including friends, family, and coworkers, have been so positive and supportive. I know people who have fought cancer, and I have three daughters at home and one daughter off in college and I don’t have a choice. I’ve always wanted them to see me as a strong person, and I still do, even though this was never part of the plan,” Jennifer said. “I just want to make sure they’re proud of me and I want to be a good role model for them. Also, many cancer patients have really awful fights with cancer and I have to stay strong for the people who aren’t able to stay so strong.”
If you notice your body isn’t functioning properly, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor and get a checkup. Your health is too important to ignore. Nelnet’s health benefits can often cover checkups like these. If you haven’t already, check out which benefits can best suit your needs.