When I used to think of cancer I would imagine a frail, older person who lived a long life and it somewhat made sense that this would be part of their final story. This has changed since I’ve heard of numerous young and vibrant people being diagnosed with cancer and succombing to this horrible disease. It has become normal for many cancer patients to create a bucket list or request one big wish or dream to be fulfilled. Celebrities tribute songs and visit patients in hospitals. Kids throw the first pitch at a baseball game. Moms and dads take their dream trip. You have seen the pictures and the joy on their faces. You have also seen the pictures of when they lose their hair and the hospital bed that becomes their home. You have seen the heartbreak in their families eyes as though know what’s coming far too soon.
This was part of the story of Annjenette Cole – often called Jet by her friends and family. She was 20 when she was diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer in November 2015. This shocking news didn’t divide her family or break her spirit. Something beautiful happened. They clung to God, making memories they cherished during her journey and will never forget, prayed unendingly, shared her smile with everyone, created a bucket list and relied on hugs and hope. Annjenette continued living and maybe more vibrantly than she had before.
I didn’t actually know Jet, but I feel like the parts I learned and knew about her are exactly what God intended for me. She may never have realized the full impact she had on so many people by sharing her story and journey. The impact of embracing life, living fearlessly, not letting this part of her story break her spirit and never giving up. Her smile was contagious and I can only imagine her joyful laugh.
The Cole family is a huge part of Jet’s story as they encouraged her to keep living, smiling and being herself. They never left her side and continued sharing updates and stories about what they and Jet were enduring. They helped Jet fulfill her bucket list and invited so many people to become part of the journey. Family flew in, people offered prayers and donated money, friends shared Jet’s story through social media and posted encouraging messages. I have gained a new perspective of cancer. Despite how much it takes, cancer changes the hearts of so many and can bring families closer together.
When I think of cancer I see bravery. People who can bravely face each day and moment knowing the pain and discomfort they know will be there when they awaken if they find a way to fall asleep. Annjenette taught me that you can still smile in the face of adversity. You can still be present in remarkable ways. You can still embrace love, hope and all things good despite knowing your final breath will come soon.
Annjennette faught hard and lived big. She breathed her final breath on September 10, 2015 at age 21. This is the final chapter of her earthly body, but her spirit will continue to live on. Here is a tribute compiled by Michael Turner that will give you a small glimpse of Jet’s journey.