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Smiling headshot image of Jenifer, colon cancer survivor.

Meet Jenifer

Moffitt Nurse and Colon Cancer Survivor

"All I could think of was, 'are my kids going to grow up without their mother?' "

Colon cancer screening leads to diagnosis

Jenifer Tonn has seen cancer from two different perspectives. First, as a colon cancer survivor. And then, as a registered nurse at Moffitt Cancer Center.

In 2006, a colonoscopy revealed a 3-centimeter tumor. Jenifer fought through chemotherapy and radiation. Then surgery. And after six weeks of recovery, four more months of chemotherapy. It was fear mixed with a powerful determination. “All I could think of was, ‘Are my kids going to grow up without their mother?’ she says. “I was not going to let that happen.”

Jenifer recalls a Moffitt infusion nurse who helped her find her strength when she was at her weakest. “She was like an angel every time…she validated what I was going through.” Jenifer quickly understood that Moffitt was a different kind of place.

Experiencing the compassion that flowed from nurses, doctors and other staff inspired her to join the Moffitt team. And with her new perspective, she tries to share what she went through with patients who might be struggling with their cancer.

“There are patients that come through every day that feel like they’re beaten by their cancer,” Jenifer says. “They’re nauseous. They’ve lost weight. I feel like by sharing my story with them, I can help them get through the next treatment.”

Her definition of courage? “It means getting up every day when you don’t want to get up and fighting a fight you don’t want to fight.”

Of course, Jenifer knows firsthand, having been diagnosed with a genetic disorder that puts her at an 80% lifetime risk of colon cancer. So she can share the importance of annual screenings with patients too.

Jenifer is thrilled to inspire others just by sharing what she’s been through. “They look at me and see hope and see that I’m on the other side,” she says. “They see me and I’m the light at the end of the tunnel.”