Running on Gratitude: Jennifer Gouaux’s Beating Breast Cancer With a Thankful Heart

Jennifer Gouaux after a race
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Jennifer Gouaux is strong and independent, but most of all, she’s grateful.

On November 30, 2018, just days after Thanksgiving, Jennifer was diagnosed with stage II invasive breast cancer. “At 59 years old, I’d had nothing but normal mammograms. My doctor, Steven Selznick, MD, demanded that I get one. I didn’t want it, but thank God I got it done,” Jennifer says.

She later wrote Dr. Selznick a letter of gratitude, a thoughtful gesture she continues to this day. “I tell everyone, ‘This man saved my life,’” Jennifer says.

From One Mammogram to a Double Mastectomy

“I’ll never forget the day I walked into the AdventHealth Cancer Institute, having driven by it for years,” Jennifer remembers. She had a double mastectomy to remove a two-centimeter tumor and had reconstructive surgery in February 2018 before starting adjuvant (treatment in addition to curative-intent surgery) with an oral medication.

“Advancements in chemotherapy and genomic testing allow us to offer patients like Jennifer more options for chemotherapy,” says Dr. Carlos Alemany, a Medical Oncologist at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute.

“Through genomic testing, we learned that Jennifer’s cancer wasn’t aggressive,” says Dr. Alemany. “She was a candidate for adjuvant hormone therapy and received treatment with an oral agent, exemestane,” explains Dr. Alemany.

Despite a five-year pill regimen, calcium supplements and weekly treatment with vitamin D capsules, Jennifer’s optimistic. “I’m really lucky,” she says.

Unforgettable Moments at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute

Jennifer is grateful for everyone who helped her face cancer. “I never imagined that this diagnosis would introduce me to the multitudes of people with open arms to help me.”

“When you have cancer, so many people want to talk. Simply listening means the most,” she explains. Her AdventHealth breast cancer navigator, Jaclyn, was one such listener. “Jaclyn walked me through treatment one step at a time. She held my hand through it all,” Jennifer remembers.

One moment, in particular, stole her heart. “The night of my double mastectomy, I was on morphine, but I asked the nurse if I could walk around. It was three in the morning, but I walked the hallway for 20 minutes,” Jennifer says.

“The nurse said, ‘Well, I’ve never seen this before,’ and I said, ‘Well, you’ve just never met a Cajun gal like myself,’ and we laughed. She shook her head as if to say, ‘You go, girl.’ It was just this little moment that meant a lot to me.”

A Support System Rallying Around Her

“For an independent girl like myself, depending on people was a hard thing,” Jennifer says.

In her vulnerable moments, Jennifer’s friends, coworkers and the American Cancer Society were all there for her. Jennifer is grateful for Bernard, Deb and Jack, Brad and Kelly, and Adam, Tony, Rahul, Frank and Lisa.

Racing Toward a Brighter, Healthier Future

At Track Shack, Jennifer’s found a running hobby that’s as healthy as it is fulfilling. “Walking with Track Shack is a boost to my morale,” she says.

Two days before her mastectomy, Jennifer participated in the Run for Love event. “I walked and jogged my heart out, thought of the processes to come, allowed myself the time to gather my strength, breathed deeply and took in the beauty of the environment. It was the last race with my natural breasts; a sort of thank you and goodbye,” Jennifer remembers.

“I had my double mastectomy surgery on February 11, 2019, and I walked the Track Shack 10k on March 24,” she remembers. “I wasn’t running, but I crossed the finish line.”

“Track Shack events are a shot of good medicine,” she says. “With cancer, you should also have a prescription for Track Shack events as part of your get-well plan,” she smiles.

Today, Jennifer’s energy and endurance are improving, and she’s looking forward to many runs, including the Lady Track Shack 5k on February 1, 2020. She wants to get back to her 12-minute mile, too. “All I want to do this year is run,” she says.

Jennifer’s Encouragement for You

If you’re newly diagnosed with cancer, Jennifer knows how you feel — and where you can find hope. “Know that there are so many people at AdventHealth who will lead you, one step at a time, and Track Shack is there for you, too.”

For over 20 years, AdventHealth and Track Shack have partnered to make the Central Florida community — and people like Jennifer — healthier in body, mind and spirit. Learn more or sign up for the Lady Track Shack 5k.

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