Long-Term Survivor Stories – Jacqueline O’Brien

My name is Jacqueline O’Brien, and I am blessed with a wonderful husband, Sean, and our close-knit family here in New York City. My son Matt and his wife, Corrina, added to the richness of our life with the birth of my first grandchild, Millicent Rae, in May. Next May, my son, Danny, will be marrying the love of his life, Caitlin. I could not ask for more than this circle of loved ones who bring me joy every day.

Until last year I taught Middle Schoolers the absolute joy of reading and writing that was instilled in me as a child. It allowed me to be creative and to spend my summers on the gorgeous beaches of New Jersey and at the ballpark cheering for my beloved Mets.

Last fall, 2020, I noticed my appetite fading with a corresponding loss in my weight. I had been hoping to drop 10 lbs, but when the scale continued to plunge, I knew I was in trouble. My doctor ordered a cat scan and called me on Christmas Eve to report a large mass in my abdomen that required an immediate MRI. Within a week, he had ordered a biopsy. So I found out on the day before my birthday, January 13th, that I had a form of cancer that I had never heard of, cholangiocarcinoma, and to paraphrase my doctor, it was a “bad” one.

He immediately connected me to the right people, which eventually led me to my present care team at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Everyone I encounter there is amazing, so I have hope in my life. The biomarker testing showed I have an Idh1 mutation that stands as the second-line treatment beyond the chemotherapy I am currently receiving. The first person who drew my blood at MSK told me she had seen miracles there, and I believe her.

The generous souls I have met through the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation are also giving me strength. My mentor Joerg has been there for me consistently, and I don’t have to tell anyone what an inspiration Melinda is. They keep me pushing for more and better answers. I have learned so much by attending the webinars, and the group discussions are a way to meet other fighters whose wisdom I can sum up with these words from one of the members, “Keep kicking that can down the road.”  It is a unique forum for us because you know the people you meet have gone through exactly what you are experiencing. There is no need for long explanations, Sometimes I just want to see a smile or hear laughter at the Thursday chats via Zoom, and I am never disappointed. There is no way for me to thank you enough for the help I have received from all the people in my story (and there are many I have not even named). By sending a donation and sharing my story, I hope that I help move us all forward to a brighter place of hope where we can all feel better. Happy Holidays!