A revolution was experienced on the central streets of Comodoro Rivadavia, south of Chubut, due to the presence of a car that did not stop honking. Many others followed him from behind emulating a caravan. Many neighbors knew why. Others found out in the meantime. "Last chemo, I beat cancer," read big on the back of the vehicle. And suddenly, a person leaned out of the window with balloons in his hands. It was Jenifer Quevedo (28), a beloved young woman in the neighborhood who beat Hodgkin's lymphoma and celebrated with all the people who accompanied her during more than a year of struggle.
It all started in March last year. The young woman from Chubut went to the doctor because she had a toothache and thought it was an infection. An inflammation in her neck made her doubt and the doctor who treated her gave her an unencouraging outlook. "He sent me for a CT scan and it came out that I had lymph nodes. That's where the whole nightmare started," Jenifer tells Clarín.
He had to undergo two neck operations to remove those nodes. The wait for the results was endless until he heard what he never wanted to: Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer, a disease related to cancer cells in the lymphatic system. It was hereditary. Some time ago, two uncles on his father's side had died from the same infection that begins in white blood cells.
They were treatments, CT scans and rays without respite at the Regional Hospital until he started chemotherapy right there, in the cancer center. His anguish increased when he took the tests to the specialist. "He told me that my case was very difficult because I had 18 nodes and 90% of the body taken," she recalled. Neck, groin, armpits and chest were some of the affected parts.
"I couldn't believe it. I was with my normal life, I never imagined it. I told the doctor that I felt good and I didn't understand how there were no alternatives to cure me," he said of his first reaction.
The professional replied that he could recover but that "it was going to be difficult and required patience to face a long process."
From one day to the next, his life took a 360° turn. He had to stop working in public service, since any virus that could be spread would be deadly. Nor could he continue training, another of his daily actions. Then, he had to search for activities at home such as selling clothes.
Many advised him to travel to Buenos Aires for treatment. However, she relied on provincial doctors. In addition, she did not want to face the situation far from her inner circle: "I am very familiar and I could not have been away from everyone. I think it would have been more difficult without their love and support," confided Jenifer, who also took refuge in religion since she defines herself as "very much of a believer."
Jenni Quevedo (28), the young woman from Comodoro Rivadavia who beat cancer and put together a caravan to celebrate it in the center of the city. Photo: Facebook
Nicholas (29), her husband, and Nehemiah (11), her son, were instrumental in her recovery. They always encouraged her not to give up, especially in the worst moments.
"My life changed 100%. One day I woke up well and positive. The other, I didn't want to get out of bed anymore. I cried, I was angry and moody, something that never characterized me because I always look for the good side of everything. But I wondered 'why did this happen to me'. I saw my son and cried," she describes of those moments of anxiety.
She is excited when talking about Nehemiah, her greatest weakness. "When does it end, Mom. How many chemo are missing?" he asked constantly. Although she defines him as "a quiet little person who finds it difficult to say what she feels", he emphasizes that a simple gesture was worth more than a thousand words. That gesture was a hug.
He told me everything with a hug. Since I started chemo, he was more distressed than anyone. I was 10 years old and it was all fear and questions. He took care of me and took care of me a lot. In their embraces I felt relief and tranquility. My son was the big reason I was able to get ahead," she says.
At the time of starting chemotherapy, hair loss was what affected him most psychologically. "At 28 I didn't want to be hairless, walk around with a headscarf, I didn't want any of that. I said, 'How ugly, what are people going to say.'" That was his first thought.
Soon after, he reflected, "I just dropped the first chemo. Then I realized that I didn't care about what happens to my hair, the physical appearance or what they say. I just wanted to heal and nothing else."
Months passed and some sessions were delayed. It is that he always had to have previous blood tests. Some of them end up giving him bad for having low defenses. "I couldn't take it anymore, I didn't want to prick myself one more time. It was all suffering," he says, his voice breaking.
Until a special date arrived and that will be marked in his memory. On Friday, January 27 – the day before his birthday – the doctor saw his last CT scan and told him something that until then seemed unimaginable.
"They gave me the news that I was just a short time away from finishing chemo because everything was going away. It was a beautiful birthday present," he jokes.
One of the posters with which the family received her at the end of chemotherapy.
About that significant moment, he revealed that the doctor "could not believe" that all the lymph nodes were gone, he only had a large one left in his neck, which would end up disappearing shortly after.
"Even she doesn't understand how I could be cured. He told me it had been a miracle. I believe in God a lot. All this time I asked him to take care of me and give me strength," he summarized.
Last chemo and caravan through the city
Last Tuesday, Jenifer was due to report at 8 a.m. to Regional Hospital. He went with his mother, while his father would arrive a while later. It was time for his last chemotherapy after so much battle.
"Before I finished I saw that my dad covered me so that I did not see the room. Then I found out why. There was all my family that surprised me and that shock of emotions was tremendous, "he says.
Her son was waiting for her with a smile from ear to ear. And a green poster – alluding to cancer – that carried a heartfelt message: "A lioness beat cancer. Always by your side. We love you very much."
One of the moments that was filmed was when he had to fulfill one of the traditions: ring a bell. It is a healing therapeutic ritual that spread throughout the world, as a symbol of hope, before the possibility of defeating cancer and making a symbolic closure of that arduous process.
But there were more surprises. Upon leaving the hospital, Jenifer found her father's car fully decorated for the occasion. "They took me all over the city center. On the way I was greeted by a lot of people congratulating me. It was amazing. For a moment I forgot all the pain I felt and I was totally happy. 'Let's go,' they shouted at me from the cars," she says, still astonished by such a deployment.
The family car completely decorated to tour the city center.
The tour ended at her mother's house where the rest of the family was waiting for her with trumpets and bass drums. They danced and even began to sing court songs, those of their beloved Huracán de Comodoro Rivadavia.
From the club, which currently plays the Federal Amateur Regional Tournament, they congratulated her with a message posted on their networks: "We celebrate your recovery and victory in this fight against such a hard disease." And of course, there was no lack of invitation to the court: "We are waiting for you at the Industrial with a gift for you".
It was so that this same Sunday, Jenifer will return to the César Muñoz stadium invited by the club. "I always went with my son and my husband, but the last time I couldn't because sometimes I felt bad and other times because it was cold," she explains about the place she considers her second home. "I can't wait to be in the stands," he says, smiling as he awaits the match against Deportivo Roca de Río Negro.
Jenifer with a T-shirt of Huracán, the club of her loves in Comodoro Rivadavia.
Bad drinks already seem to be a thing of the past. However, he will have a month off and will have the final stage related to Positron Emission Tomography (PET).
"It is a radiotherapy treatment for a month that serves to remove from the body the cells that the chemotherapy killed so that there are no residues. The first days of July I start with that. But they told me it was going to be less invasive," he concludes.
Finally, Jenifer says that this disease made her know a world that she would never have imagined. "It allowed me to realize how many people are going through the same thing. I saw from little boys to grandparents suffering, it's terrible," he said.
And he left a hopeful message: "We have to grab strength where we do not have them and know that God at some point is going to put things in their place so that everything ends."