Bradwell senior Lenna Rogers didn’t know her last day of high school was going to be Feb. 6.
But on Feb. 7 she learned she had stage four Hodgkin Lymphoma. She’s also learned a lesson. “Don’t forget, tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
Hodgkin Lymphoma is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Previous x-rays showed Rogers had tumors in her spleen, but by February she learned the cancer had spread all over her body.
“I wasn’t supposed to get treated until a week later, but my temperature was so high and my symptoms were so bad,” Rogers said. “I had to get admitted to the hospital four days later and it’s just been a rocky road ever since. It’s been an experience.”
Between the chemotherapy and the cancer, Rogers was hurting.
She had a temperature of 107.2 degrees and no appetite. She lost 25 pounds in a little over a week and her body started to swell. Her red and white blood cell counts were so low Rogers couldn’t walk.
Rogers said her faith in God and support from family and friends kept her going.
Her mother, Dolores Rogers, was with her for every hospital visit, and had to stop working for a time to take care of her.
“My mom is probably my biggest supporter. She’s my shoulder to cry on. She’s my best friend,” said Rogers, whose mother battled kidney cancer five years ago. “I don’t like to complain about my issues because I think it could be worse, but she doesn’t look at it in that aspect. She lets me talk about anything to her. My family they’re all different, but they all have their ways of helping me.”
Her older brother, De-Quan Rogers, made her laugh when she needed it the most. Her father, Willie Rogers, would act goofy to make her smile; and her older sister Dee-Anna Rogers, described as a firecracker, would check up on her. Her three best friends kept in contact..
Family friend Saskia Cineas, whom Rogers refers to as an aunt, has been there since the beginning, Rogers said. Their families first met at church and have remained very close since.
Cineas was even willing to cut off all her hair in solidarity with Rogers.
“I was willing to go bald all the way with her because I didn’t want cancer to have a lead over her,” Cineas said. “I didn’t want cancer to take that. I wanted her to take her own hair and not cancer do it. We had a hair-shaving party. I cut her hair with scissors and her daddy shaved her hair.”
Inward Blossom Life is Cineas’ non-profit organization which, she said, is about meeting people’s needs and showing others love.
Cineas did a T-shirt fundraiser to help the Rogers family.
“I can’t imagine having to travel back and forth to Savannah (for treatments)—that’s a lot,” Cineas said. “I always think about if I was in that situation what would I want people to do for me. She’s a minister in dance, so I came up with ‘Lenna’s Dance for a Cure’ because this is her dance, from beginning to the end, this is hers.”
Cineas raised close to $500.
Although Rogers stopped going to school, she did make it to prom. She was voted prom queen.
Her doctors objected to prom at first, but because she responded well during treatment Rogers was allowed to go.
Cineas arranged everything—dress, nails, tickets and photos.
“Prom was amazing. It was great. I loved it. I had a champagne dress,” Rogers said. “The night was going great but after I won prom queen, it was a dream come true,” she said. “I was so psyched that I got to go. It was just so nice to be there and see my classmates and get out a little. I was able to lay back and have some fun.”
And even had Rogers’ not won prom queen, there was crown waiting for her at home. Cineas was going to give Rogers the crown she wore at her vow renewal.
“I told her if she didn’t win this crown will be ready for you. When we got that message that she won I literally screamed,” Cineas said.
Rogers said she was surprised that her classmates voted for her. She described herself as an introvert, with few friends.
“To know that all these people supported me, it felt great because that’s what I need right now. I need support. It was a great feeling,” Rogers said.
This week Rogers will have her last round of chemotherapy and will be in remission. She will still have to get checkups for the next five years and will “still have to get my lungs and heart checked for the rest of my life.”
Rogers has already set her sights on her next goal, college. She wants to attend Georgia Southern University to study neonatal nursing and oncology. She hopes to start classes in January and take online classes during the summer to keep her from falling behind and occupied.
Rogers had a lot of words of encouragement for others going through the same situation.
“Stay strong. You’ll feel, ‘Oh, why God me? Why do I have to do this? Don’t forget tough times don’t last, tough people do. Please get to know God. He is honestly the reason why I’m here right now,” she said.
She said having a support system is key and it’s not about the quantity of people around but the quality of people.
“Be able to motivate yourself. There was a time when I was just lying in bed, saying, ‘I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I don’t feel like talking to anyone.’ Do not stay in bed. The bed will suck you in.” she said.
When Rogers’ face and body were swollen she didn’t want to look herself in the mirror. She shut herself in her room all day.
“I had to get myself out of that habit. Just go check the mail, step outside and look at the sky and be grateful because a lot of people can’t do that,” she said. “That’s why I try not to complain because, yes my situation is unfortunate, I got to go home after two days of chemo and some people I saw have to stay there for months at a time, or weeks at a time. I still have a little bit of hair going on. They lost all of their hair and eyebrows. I’m grateful for what little I have. It may not be much, but I’m grateful for what little I have. Count your blessings. Name them one by one. You may not have a lot but be grateful for what you have.”
Saskia Cineas stands with Bradwell Institute senior and 2017 prom queen Lenna Rogers, who has been battling stage four Hodgkin Lymphoma. Rogers said her faith and a strong support system of family and friends have helped her through chemotherapy and soon remission.
LRogers_prom queen: Lenna Rogers smiles after being voted Bradwell Institiute’s 2017 prom queen. Rogers was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin Lymphoma in February and had to stop attending school. She was able to go to prom and crowned prom queen. Rogers was overwhelmed by the support of her classmates.
Lenna Rogers_prom: Lenna Rogers, Bradwell Institute senior, dances in her champagne colored dress before heading to prom. Rogers, who was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin Lymphoma, was crowned prom queen later that evening.