April 02, 2019
Jamil Rivers is a mother of three in big, tight-knit family here in Philadelphia, where she works full time and seemingly has a great life.
But in 2017, the Rivers family's status quo was upset when her husband was diagnosed with stage-one colon cancer. At age 39, Jamil became her husband's caretaker.
But after a cold led Jamil to the doctor's office, an ultrasound showed that she had lesions in her liver. She had no other symptoms and no other pain, but further testing uncovered that she had stage-four “de novo” metastatic breast cancer. It had spread to her liver, spleen, lymph nodes, lungs, bones, abdomen and chest, Rivers tells People:
"I’m my kids’ mom and no one else can be. I’m the breadwinner in my family and everyone is also on my benefits. It was imperative that I keep my job and do well at my job so I could continue to take care of them."
Jamil started chemotherapy immediately due to the severity of her illness. But to make matters worse, since she was the benefits-carrier for her family, she had to continue working to keep the health care coverage that was going to provide treatment for herself and her sick husband. Plus, she had to continue caring for her kids, be active and take care of herself all the while. She wrote for People:
"Now, my husband is in recovery. And after ten months, my tumors have shrunk to the point where they’re a microscopic size so you can’t see them on a scan. I’m still working, taking care of the kids and involved in their school activities. I want to soak in every waking second with my family."
In light of their amazing story, the Rivers family was awarded a For Pete's Sake Cancer Respite Foundation respite vacation to Florida.
"Reducing my stress and having a break to focus simply on spending time with my family improves my overall well-being and outlook," Jamil explains. The trip gave the Rivers family the energy needed to focus on continuing their fight.
Jamil Rivers is telling PEOPLE about her diagnosis in a four-part series about her battle to survive — and thrive — for her family and for other women battling cancer. Her story continues next week.