Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia before moving to Valparaiso when she was in first grade, Jessica Kirsten Wells has developed close ties to her friends and family members over the years. Wanting to work with people, she went to Purdue University to study sociology and minor in communications, while also finding the time to join Purdue's Golduster Dance Team. Diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer, her plans for the upcoming summer have been altered to incorporate regular chemotherapy treatments.
"I found out on April 19th that I was diagnosed," Wells said, "They told that me the cancer they found was an older person cancer usually only found through a colonoscopy, and they don't even require those until you're fifty years old. It's very rare for a twenty-five year old to get it, so they referred me to Northwestern. They told me to go to Chicago."
With the unexpected ailment, Wells has chosen to undergo an experimental treatment option, one that will provide chemotherapy instead of radiation. The clinical trial that suggested the alternative method of chemotherapy instead of radiation has already shown promising results while also diminishing some of the risks associated with the standard treatment.
"The standard treatment option is chemotherapy and radiation together, but I have decided... to just do chemotherapy right now," Wells said. "It's a clinical trial, and I tried it in hopes of not having radiation because radiation has a lot of problems. I'd never be able to have my own children with radiation, and they're not sure that it's one-hundred percent necessary. They know that chemo and radiation together work, but they don't know if it's just the chemo or just the radiation or them together. So I'm just trying chemo to see if that works. This is the third round of the clinical trial. It's been shown to work in many people. In a clinical trial, you don't know which hand you'll be dealt. I didn't sign up for the clinical trial, but I signed up for the clinical trial treatment. I told my doctor that I wanted what the plan is, but just to do it myself."
By taking the trial treatment instead of participating in the trial itself, Wells knows for sure what result she'll be working with. A typical clinical trial requires a control group of people who don't receive the experimental new method to compare it with the standard results. Wells' results won't be taken into account with the rest of the clinical trial, but the treatment the trial offers is still a promising option for her.
"I just started chemotherapy yesterday," Wells said. "It was good. [The treatment] is over the course of twelve weeks, and every two weeks I get my infusion. The infusion lasts for forty-eight hours."
Ever since word of her cancer came out, her friends and family have come together as a support network to be there for her during this period. At first the network consisted mostly of her family and closer friends, but as time went on more and more acquaintances have arrived to give their support.
"I've had a lot of friends throughout the years in Valpo, and all my girlfriends and friends went to the same college," Wells said. "It's a group of fifteen close girlfriends, and it just kind of spread out to all their families when they heard about it. I've got them, my fiance, and all these friends from school. People have reached out to me through Facebook, by sending flowers to my house... It's been overwhelming, but in a very good way. I've probably heard from two to three hundred people on Facebook. It's awesome that people I've not heard from in years are being there, and the people who have been there all this time are there more. It's just been awesome."
Wells and her fiance, Drew Tribble, became engaged last June while she was living in San Diego. After being together for five and a half years, they will be married this summer. The time of the chemotherapy treatment may, unfortunately, complicate the wedding preparations.
"I think that just having the treatments and trying to work and lead a normal life will be difficult at times when I'm not feeling well," Wells said. "I've only been on it two days, though, so I can't say how I'll be feeling in the next couple months. I'm going to try to lead a normal life and have summer and have fun. I'm preparing for my wedding in August, so that'll keep me busy."
With the wedding plans and the chemotherapy to deal with, summer will be busy. However, Wells and her friends are planning to make plenty of time for fun, as well.
"I love dancing," Wells said. "I love going out for wine with my girlfriends, shopping, and going on vacations. We do a yearly vacation to the Caribbean or Mexico, and a lot of hosting parties. I like dinner parties, having people over... I know that me and my family and fiance are going to the movies in the park, and they're talking about going to see bands and probably just having barbecues and hanging out with friends and family. We like to go out on boats and hang out with friends and family. Other than wedding plans, that's what we'll be doing."