A Michigan teen is spending her junior year being homeschooled to help care for her mother with breast cancer.
Jennifer Burkholder of Falmouth, Michigan, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and invasive ductal carcinoma simultaneously during the summer of 2018. The cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, and Burkholder is undergoing chemotherapy.
Luckily, the 42-year-old mom of three has a strong and selfless support system around her.
Burkholder is no stranger to hospitals. When she was 18, a car accident severed her spinal cord and left her paralyzed. Her cousin died in the same accident.
Burkholder has been in a wheelchair ever since.
In 2014, she had surgery that led to sepsis, and had to have part of her intestines removed.
Burkholder and her husband, Kevin, have three children together: Emma, Noah, and Anna.
Emma is the oldest, and after news of her mother’s diagnosis hit the family, she decided to offer to homeschool so she could help take care of her.
It was a relief to her parents to know that Emma would be able to be there for her mom during this year, especially as she grapples with chemo treatments that leave her drained.
Emma counts her mom as one of her best friends, and is ready to help out every way she can.
“I know that if something were to happen I know what to do, whereas a nurse or something may not know the specifics of my mom,” Emma told 9&10 News.
Having Emma there will not only help her mother, but lift some of the worry off of her father as well, who is working to support the family of five.
“That way somebody would be home for Jen because sometimes she has problems falling out of her chair,” Kevin said, “and just to have somebody here like Emma that knows Jennifer and knows all of her elements and things that happen. It’s a peace of mind.”
Burkholder has grown accustomed to life in a wheelchair; she dresses herself, gets on and off the bed and other furniture unassisted, and goes into the bathroom alone. But with chemo weakening her body, everyday tasks that she would normally navigate solo have become much more difficult.
Emma is happy to help. “I would gladly give up this little part of my life to help my mom,” she said.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.