“The reason I had pain was to warn me,” Doctors discover lymphoma after teen complains of hip pain

Kids with Courage
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OKLAHOMA CITY - Jessica Zeleke is like a lot of other teenage girls her age.

This night, the 13-year-old was spending a quiet evening at home with a friend to practice using new makeup.

Her mother sent letters to her favorite makeup companies to ask for samples to cheer her up. In return, the companies sent care packages filled with full-size products that delighted the teenager.

She smiles in the mirror as she applies her eye makeup.

Jessica has no hair and very few eyelashes because she is currently undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with a deadly disease.

She says she knew something was wrong when she started to experience pain across her body.

“My hip really hurt. It was a big ache, a large ache, going all the way down to my knee and radiating pain” she explains.

In a matter of weeks, she lost 10 pounds and felt like there was a knot in her chest.

Her mother took her to the doctor repeatedly, and finally they were given the diagnosis of Stage Four Hodgkin Lymphoma.

“The place where I have cancer is in this vertebrae in my back, and in my femur area and here on my chest,” she said.

“She’s a very intuitive, very engaged child for her age and she wants to know what’s going on,” explains her pediatric oncologist from Jimmy Everest Cancer Center, Dr. Chinni Pokola.

Chemotherapy treatments quickly shrank the multiple tumors in Jessica’s body, including the painful tumor near her hip that actually caused a hairline fracture.

“By the second round, her pet scan showed so much improvement, I was just amazed,”  Angela Reupert, Jessica's mother, said.

Jessica’s parents describe her as being very strong emotionally.

She never complains about treatment, and didn’t become upset when her hair started falling out.

“The only thing that bothers me is losing my eyelashes,” she explains. “The style now is for very long lashes, so I miss mine.”

She seems wise beyond her years when asked how she processes the whole idea of fighting cancer.

“The reason I had pain was to warn me to go to the doctor and make them find the cancer. So God is helping me all the time,” she said.

Jessica loves playing with her makeup tools, and she loves playing softball too.

Instead of a brush or bat, she hopes to be holding a stethoscope when she gets older.

“She wants to be a long-term cancer survivor, and we want to make that happen,” Dr. Pokola adds.

“Make your own dream, believe in yourself, everything you do in life, just do it!” Kebede Reupert, Jessica's father, said.

If you’d like to help kids like Jessica fight cancer, consider donating to Jimmy Everest Center For Cancer.

Jessica’s family also has a GoFundMe page set up to handle some of the expenses related to her care.

'Kids With Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.


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