Perseverance Story: Karin Jelsma

Photo courtesy of Heather Eveland Photography.

Over the course of four weeks, members of the community will be sharing their story.  These stories are about individuals and their experience with cancer. They are the reason the Lowell community comes together for the Pink Arrow Football Game.  Each story is written by the person you will read about or by someone on their behalf. We thank them for sharing their story and courage.

Photo courtesy of Heather Eveland and is used with permission.   Heather donates her time to get to know those she is photographing and capture an image to be used with each story.  You can visit her photography website and Facebook page for more information about her work.  

Heather is also the volunteer coordinator for Pink Arrow events.  If you are interested in helping out at Community Day (Thursday, Aug. 16) or game day (Thursday, Aug. 30) please contact her by calling 616-291-8907 or send an email to [email protected].  Heather will let you or your group know what help is needed to determine the best fit.  

The following is written by Karin Jelsma.  She tells her cancer story in her own words.  

Challenging circumstances come and go, but I am continually reminded that my Lord, family, A.B.C. small group, friends and Pink Arrow community are cheering me on.

As a mother of two grown children, and a first time grandma to be in six months, my cup was overflowing with joy getting ready for grandbaby #1.  It was early May 2017 when I was having some unusual pain.  I went to my doctor and some tests and ultrasounds were set up for June and July.  Both appointments led to more visits to other doctors and more failed tests.

In August, I missed my first Pink Arrow football game ever as I was waiting for biopsy results and I was not wanting any reminders that cancer was knocking on my back door.  I did go and pick up a Pink Arrow shirt but didn’t want to go to the game.   I just needed some “me time’ with God, because I knew he already was carrying me through His “game plan”.

A week later, I was starting to work on Christmas through Lowell projects when I received that dreaded phone call with my cancer diagnosis.  My doctor said I had endometrioid adenocarcinoma, which in short is Endometrial Cancer.   It was one of the most shocking phone calls I have ever had. She asked me to write down my oncologist’s lead doctor and phone numbers and I could hardly write.  Very seldom am I lost for words, but that afternoon I was in shock and numb all over.

When my husband got home from work (two hours after my phone call) he knew by my face the news wasn’t good.  He called in family and our church small group that evening and we shared the news.

After meeting with my oncologist team at Lemmen Holton, my surgery was set up for the first of November.  It was a real emotional day finding out the day of my surgery because November first was my daughters due date with my first grandbaby.  I remember saying “can I please be put on the cancellation surgery list?”  Two days later the oncologist had a cancellation for that week and I was in surgery three days later, on October 6th.

After surgery my oncologist said the cancer had not reached lymph nodes and was contained within the uterine walls.  My surgery was a robotic surgery and I was placed on many restrictions for almost three months.   One restriction was no lifting over eight pounds.

Well I knew God was in control and he really showed me several times on my journey.  Exactly two weeks after my surgery my little grandson was born.  Our little Caiden weighed in at 6 lbs., 6 oz. so even grandma got to hold her little bundle of joy.

A few weeks later was Christmas through Lowell and my team did an amazing job.  I really felt like my CTL team, family, A.B.C. Family, friends and neighbors were some of God’s angels with helping hands and praying me through.  I have been so blessed with each of them.

Early in January 2018, most my restrictions have been removed and follow up appointments have gone pretty good…until this May.

Exactly one year later a couple more biopsies were done because of suspicious new growth, but they were benign.  I have been learning to depend on the one who knows my body best (my maker).

I have pledged to strive to live more fully in the present, refusing to worry about tomorrow, and not dwell in the past.

After all, my grandson needs his grandma’s “snuggles” not “struggles”.

Photo courtesy of Heather Eveland Photography.

In closing, I would like to thank each prayer warrior and every person that puts on a pink arrow shirt each year and supports the Pink Arrow Pride.

Karin Jelsma


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