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Dress of Success: Patient Crafts Gown from Breast Cancer Paperwork

Dress of Success: Patient Crafts Gown from Breast Cancer Paperwork

When Fort Worth resident Jennifer Beyer learned she had breast cancer, she didn’t have any doubt that she was going to beat the disease.

“I didn’t know what God’s plan was for me,” Beyer, 45, said about her reaction to the startling diagnosis. “But I knew that it wasn’t to lay down in a bed and die. I still have too much that I want and need to do. I’m a single mom of two kids.”

Beyer was determined to go on living her life without letting the disease take away her time with family or slow down her busy career. She didn’t want anyone outside of her inner circle to even know of her battle.

“I’m in the entertainment business,” Beyer said about her work promoting corporate events and parties. “It’s all about creating happiness and excitement, so people couldn’t know that I was fighting cancer. I was determined they wouldn’t find out.”

With the help of the Oncology team and plastic surgeons at JPS Health Network, Beyer has nearly completed the year-long process of going from diagnosis to recovery. She did it without colleagues and friends even becoming aware of her fight. It wasn’t until she neared completion of treatment this fall that she began to open up about her struggle.

Beyer never missed a job because of her treatments, sometimes going to work the same day procedures were done. After a harrowing period while she waited for the results of her biopsy, she was relieved to learn her cancer could be completed without chemotherapy or radiation treatments. She kept her hair, which helped to conceal her illness. But she worked through a double mastectomy and the reconstructive surgeries that followed with a smile on her face.

Beyer said she never got down about her frequent visits to the JPS Oncology and Infusion Center where she met with her caregiving team. It was the time between her visits when she had her weakest moments.

“The people at JPS have been like family,” Beyer said. “I always had my mom, my sister, my kids or my friends at my appointments. When the doctors, nurses and other JPS people were in the room, it seems like we’d all always end up laughing together. Sometimes, when I had a longer period between appointments, I’d find myself missing the people who have taken such good care of me.”

I'm amazed with the care I got at JPS. They supported me every step of the way.

As her life returned to normal, Beyer found herself left with a giant stack of medical paperwork that commemorated her journey back to health. She decided it was time to share her story, both to find closure in her battle with cancer and to let others know there is hope despite a breast cancer diagnosis.

She took every sheet of paper she received from her Oncology appointments, lab reports, and surgeries – as well as pages from articles about breast cancer and its treatment – and cut them into oval-shaped leaves. Beyer then dyed the pieces different shades of pink… breast cancer awareness colors. When she was done, after four days of tireless work hot gluing the parts together, she donned the dress at the Fort Worth Book Show in October, turning her private fight into a public display of inspiration for others.

The dress was a sensation at the book show as people who saw it pieced together the plot of Beyer’s life story.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Dr. Steven Mapula was amazed when he learned about the dress.

“From the beginning, her attitude was amazing,” Mapula said of Beyer. “She wasn’t going to be defeated and it showed. I think the fact that she decided to make a dress is so creative. It’s an amazing statement that means so much to people. It is an inspiration to people battling cancer across the country – and also to the caregivers who work every day to fight cancer.”

Beyer said she was touched to learn the people who took care of her were moved by her paper dress. She said she decided to make it to help herself heal. But she’s glad it’s helping others, too.

“I’m amazed with the care I got at JPS,” Beyer said. “The people who work there were wonderful. They supported me every step of the way and I knew I was in the right place for me. I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else. I want to be able to give something back to them. I love them all.”

While friends and colleagues have been amazed to learn of Beyer’s stealthy battle against breast cancer, her son, Cameron Havens, said she was so confident that he never doubted for a second that she would beat the disease.

“Losing wasn’t an option,” Havens, 22, said. “I knew from the beginning that she was going to kick cancer’s butt, and that’s exactly what she did. My mom always finds a way to get things done.”