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Mammograms Save Moms - 2018 - Jess' Story

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Mammograms Save Moms

Jess Wilkerson  

A year ago we introduced you to Jess Wilkerson. The mother of two was undergoing chemotherapy to fight an aggressive form of breast cancer and waiting to undergo a bilateral mastectomy.  

A lot has changed over the last 12 months, but Jess’ determination to fight the disease, be the best mom possible, and empower women to make their health a priority has remained the same.  

Jess walks with her son Thor and daughter Max at Red Rocks

The first indication something might be wrong appeared in the form of a lump. As a nurse, Jess diagnosed herself with a benign breast condition, but she scheduled a mammogram to be certain. The mammogram was followed by an ultrasound, a biopsy and unfortunately - a cancer diagnosis.  

Dr. Raymond Mencini, a Centura Health Breast Care radiologist at St. Anthony Hospital prepared Jess for the likely news.  

“It was such a service the way he dealt with the whole thing. He was so certain with his clinical expertise,” said Jess. I had my anniversary of when I met him on February 23. I thanked him for saving my life. I really feel that way.”  

Every three weeks for the last year, Jess has sat in a chemotherapy chair for Herceptin – a targeted therapy for breast cancer, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, and in May, and she’ll undergo her final reconstruction surgery.  

“It was very challenging to go through chemo and surgery and everything that I’ve gone through with two small children. However, it has also been amazing to have them there because they keep life real,” said Jess. “They didn’t treat me like I had cancer or act like I had cancer. I focus on their well-being. It’s about the kids moving forward.”  

Jess’ cancer journey is both an arduous and inspiring story, but this is only part of her story. Jess did something almost unthinkable during her fight with cancer. She made a career change. As a former labor and delivery nurse, Jess was always committed to helping women. She continues to help them in a new role – as a breast cancer nurse navigator. Jess is now part of the team at St. Anthony Hospital that helped her fight cancer.  

“I really and truly feel gratified that I’m helping people through this experience and journey,” said Jess. I know how challenging breast cancer is and how it completely turns your life upside down. I feel like I can provide some real, true navigation for people and make it slightly more palatable in some way.”  

For Jess, throughout her journey, the moments she felt the most strength and that she would make it through to the other side of breast cancer were when she met other women who had just gone through their treatments. Now Jess is that person for other women.  

“I try to really connect with people. In terms of all my patients that are getting chemotherapy. I try to keep track of what they are getting and when. I go sit with them during their infusions, said Jess. “It means a lot to people. I know what it’s like to sit in that chair. I did it for a year. It’s nice to feel supported.”

This story is currently featured on the homepage of St. Anthony Hospital's Breast Center.