Jen was the fifth and youngest child born to the Hunter family and lived her entire life in Hudson , Massachusetts . Even in her youth she always strived to succeed at everything she did. She taught herself to read at the age of 3. She did very well in school, not only in academics but also when she got to Hudson High School she was a member of the Cross-Country, Basketball, and Track Teams. She was also a member of the local band, the Hudson Royal Jades.
During High School she started dating her childhood sweetheart Bob Yates. They were always together and were avid Boston Celtics fans. After high school Jen went on to Bryant College , graduating with a degree in Business Administration while Bob graduated from Worcester State College with a degree in Education.
Jen & Bob were married in June of 1995 in a beautiful ceremony in Boston . A few years later they bought a house in Hudson . Jen & Bob traveled with friends, and lived every day to its fullest. They always were involved with their family. They were the ultimate Aunt & Uncle and were always active in their nieces & nephews lives, taking them to Patriots Training Camps, to the movies, or shopping at the mall.
During the summer of 2002 while vacationing with their family in New Hampshire Jen started getting bad pains in her right leg. She was initially diagnosed in late August with a disc problem in her back and started physical therapy. In early November the pain had gotten much worse and a tumor was found in her right abdominal area & hip. Within two days of the discovery of the tumor Jen was had an appointment with one of the best sarcoma specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital and had a biopsy done. A week later on a Thursday night Jen was at home with her two sisters when the phone rang at 8:00 PM. It was a doctor from Massachusetts General telling her that she needed to come in to see them as soon as possible. With incredible strength, Jen demanded that the doctor tell her what the diagnosis was. Jen was told that she had Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor. It was truly the most inspiring moments to see how well she handled this news. She was stoic as she asked the doctor all kinds of questions about her condition.
Within a half hour of that fateful phone call Jen was surrounded by her entire family: her husband, parents, brothers & sisters, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and brother & sister in laws. And that is how would be for the entire 17 month journey that she was set on that night.
On the following Monday Jen, along with many members of her family, met with the entire “Team” of doctors & health care professionals at Massachusetts General Hospital. It was at this time that she was told that she had Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor along with Osteosarcoma and that at that point it was a Grade 4, Level 4 tumor that had also metastasized to her lungs with two tumors. She also had another spot in her left hip. She was to start chemotherapy that coming Thursday – the MAID treatment. Jen’s attitude was unbelievably – she referred to her chemo as her “Pac-Men” that were going to eat up her Cancer. This form of chemo required that she be in the hospital from Thursday to Sunday while the chemo was fed into her. Then she would get 3 weeks off that would be followed by the next round of this chemo. Jen luckily tolerated this type of chemo quite well and actually was able to speed up the administration time so that she would only be in the hospital for 2 days. She was on this form of chemo for two months. After receiving this form of chemo the results were mixed. One of the tumors in her lungs had virtually disappeared, the other one had grown. The main tumor seemed to have been stopped from growing any larger.
Due to the cancer and the chemo, Jen required quite frequent blood transfusions. Jen’s family and friends were determined to always have blood in the bank for her. A schedule was set up so that she always received blood from only people she knew.
By the end of April, 2003 the pain, even with the pain medications were getting to be too much. During the month of May Jen received radiation treatment to help manage her pain.
Also during the month of May, Jen’s family, wishing there was something they could channel their energy into to help find a cure for this horrible disease, participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. We decided to do this event two weeks prior to the event and ended up raising over $11,000.00 in that short amount of time.
In June Jen had one of her lifelong dreams fulfilled. She went to her first NASCAR Race at the Pocono’s in Pennsylvania with Bob, her father, brothers, and brother-in-law. Jen spent a great weekend traveling to the event in a Camper and enjoyed every minute of this adventure. It seemed that this was the best thing that could have happened for her. It really lifted up her spirits and she really seemed to have a much better ability to go on fighting this horrible disease.
Jen continued to receive different chemos over the next 7 months. During all of this time, Jen always had an upbeat attitude even though her physical abilities diminished with each passing month. Jen continued to work full time as the Financial Controller for her company FCP Inc., a non-profit organization. She worked from home with a laptop perched upon her, never complaining and always wanting to do the best that she could.
In January of 2004 she had her regular appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital to review where she was, and as was with every other appointment she had her family by her side. This appointment however revealed the words that no one ever wanted to hear. Jen was told that the cancer was growing at a fairly rapid pace and that there was really no other treatment that was going to reduce the size of the primary tumor to a point that it would be operable. Even with this news Jen took it in her usual stoic, courageous way.
Jen opted to try the one last Chemo that could possibly work. Unfortunately, at that point her tumor had grown to a point that it was a very large effort for Jen to leave her house and get into Boston to receive treatment. This chemo also had a fairly high ratio of people who had adverse reactions to it. Jen did end up getting this chemo a few times. She also started receiving hospice care at home.
At the end of March, Jen was told that she would have to be admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital as her primary tumor had grown so large that the danger of it breaking through her skin was too great for her to remain at home. The following day Jen was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital . Jen was given a private room on Ellison 14 and Bob moved into the room with her. There was not a day after this that someone from her family was not with Bob and her.
Even at this point it was absolutely amazing to watch Jen’s desire to live every minute. Her ten nieces and nephews came in to visit her. One of her other wishes was to see her cat “Smokey”. Smokey is quite a wild old boy and believe me the poor souls who had to get him into his cat carrier for the trip will never forget that adventure, but once he got to Jen’s room he curled up and snuggled with Jen for an hour. Jen also wanted to have a staff meeting for work so that is what happened! Her employees & boss all came in and they had a great staff meeting on Ellison 14.
It was now the week before Easter. That Tuesday Jen asked her Mom “What are we doing for Easter? I hope we are having Honey Baked Ham and I’d love an Ice Cream Bunny Easter Cake!” On Easter Sunday her family arrived with all of the traditional Easter Food that had been served over the years. We had Honey Baked Ham, boiled eggs, potatoes, carrots, asparagus and of course the Ice Cream Bunny Cake & a cheese cake. When we arrived at the hospital we were told that Jen was in a very deep sleep and that she did not have much time left. Her Nurse Practitioner, Jill, who had stood by her and our sides during these 17 months, told us that she would do her best to wake her up for her Easter Meal.
Jill did wake Jen up and she loved her Easter Meal even asking Bob where her mustard was for her ham! That night her brother David also stayed at the hospital. When Jen awoke on Monday morning she asked if there was any more of the Rabbit Cake that she could have! There wasn’t any more Rabbit Cake but instead Jen had some cheesecake. After that Jen fell into a deep sleep.
On Tuesday, April 13th, at the age of 33, with her family by her side, Jen succumbed to Sarcoma.
It is because of Jen’s unwavering strength and her courage fighting this dreadful disease that we have created the Jennifer Hunter Yates Sarcoma Foundation, Inc. Because sarcoma is such a rare form of cancer, it is our sincere desire that we help to both find a cure for this disease and to aid others in fighting it. Her oncologist, Dr. David Harmon wishes to find a cure for those who are diagnosed with Advanced Sarcoma, like when Jen was diagnosed. In Jen’s honor and memory, it is our desire that we help Dr. Harmon with his cause so others will not have such a struggle.