Bloomin’ Mom: A Later Mom Shares – By Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Chapter Head

By age 36 I had everything I dreamed about growing up: I met my husband, a teacher and former Army Captain, on After five years of dating, we enjoyed our Celtic fairy tale wedding. Not wanting a long wait, we were elated to learn we were expecting shortly thereafter.

We had our little family of two cats, and a new puppy. My second year as an 8th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher for a local charter school was about to begin with the start of the new school year. My pregnancy was the icing on the cake and turned out to be even more special than I had expected. I’m the oldest of three, and my brother and sister were also expecting at the same time! My parents welcomed 4 grandbabies that year. Life was perfect! Every prayer had been answered!

And then everything came to a screeching, grinding halt…

What was suspected pregnancy complications was instead a mystery illness nobody could diagnose. That summer brought days that felt like I was getting the flu, but the “illness” always left before it really began, and my doctors could never find the cause. Shortly after our return to school, a mysterious stabbing pain brought me to Labor and Delivery; that turned out to be my last day in the classroom. By November, just three months before I held my little one for the first time, I had developed what was later diagnosed as fibromyalgia. Every day involved severe pain, flu-like symptoms, and fatigue. Doctors hoped everything would return to normal after my baby’s delivery, but it didn’t happen that way.

Kerrianne was born via an unplanned c-section. She was the most beautiful little angel I could ever envision, and yet my early days as a mom were filled with doubts, fears and worries: Would I, a person who now sometimes had trouble caring for herself, be able to care for this baby while my husband was at work? Would my doctors be able to figure out what was wrong with me? Would I be sentenced to living with this chronic pain for the rest of my life? Was my daughter to grow up as an only child? And the worst fear, would my children end up with the same fate at some point?

That was about six years ago and a lot has happened. Some events have been blessings, while others were challenges, but now Kerrianne, now almost five years old, has a little sister, Jessie, who turned three last fall. My husband now has a chronic pain condition too involving several cervical discs as well as diabetes, and I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer the month before my 40th birthday.

We’re both very proud of how successful we’ve been holding everything together through all these obstacles, and after a year of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, radiation, and continuing Tamoxifen, I’m happy to report that I’m enjoying life in remission! I celebrate each day as a cancer survivor, and now my energies are focused on finding ways to reduce fibromyalgia’s hold on my life. Fibromyalgia limits what I can do with my children as well as my ability to take care of our house and enjoy my hobbies, but we do our best to get out and have fun as much as possible!

I’m proud to live life looking for the positive despite almost six years of living with so much negative. I’ve found a voice I didn’t know I had, and I use it to support others who are trying to raise children despite the limits of chronic pain and cancer.

Princesses, Playdates and Parents In Pain is a blog and Facebook page I created that I’m excited to share with people who are looking for a community of supporters. And it offers me an outlet too when life seems overwhelming! After all, a family of one husband with a back problem, two active little girls, three cats, and now two dogs and a fibro-mommy makes for some very interesting, and sometimes chaotic, living!

My desire to get us out of the house and among new friends is what brought me to mommy groups. We joined our first moms’ group when Kerrianne was just six months old. Those groups saw me through some very difficult, scary times! I will be forever grateful for the friendships formed that I value still to this day as well as the help and support we were lucky enough to receive from some very caring women and their families!

I believe in sharing ourselves in a “community” when I join a moms’ group…we all need help, support and advice from time to time, no matter what the circumstances of our lives may be. I’m excited to now be heading the new chapter in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and I’ll do my best to pay it forward…sharing that same loving kindness I received with other women I meet along my journey.