8: Jenna’s Story

8: Jenna’s Story

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Jenna’s Story

A friend hears the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.


As a teenager, nothing really matters to you except your plans for the weekend, your latest crush, or what you’re wearing to school tomorrow. That’s how I was until the summer I met someone I will remember forever.

My family goes to Orlando every July for a weeklong vacation. We were nearing the end of our vacation when I saw some kids playing tag in the pool. I wasn’t doing anything, so I asked if I could play tag with them. The boy I asked, Brandon, said okay.

I started playing, and while I was running around I almost ran into a little girl named Jenna, who was Brandon’s sister. Even though there was an eight year difference between us, something connected, and we were instant friends. I spent the rest of the day with Jenna and her family, just talking and getting to know them. It was Jenna’s last day at the resort, so I was disappointed to say goodbye. But her mom promised we would stay in touch.

We stayed in touch with Jenna’s family for the next six months, and in the middle of November my mom got an e-mail from Jenna’s mom saying that Jenna had suffered a a brain tumor. They were scheduled to remove the tumor on December 10th, three days after my birthday. When my mom informed me of this, I couldn’t help but cry. I couldn’t imagine bright, bouncy Jenna in a hospital. On my birthday, during a pre-surgery phone conversation with Jenna, she asked if she could come eat birthday cake with me. I promised that I would eat cake with her on her birthday—which falls on Valentine’s Day.

Operation day rolled around and everything went smoothly. However, Jenna didn’t wake up until two days later. While the whole tumor was removed, there were still some issues. Jenna developed Cerebellar Mutism, which means that she had very limited motor skills, so she couldn’t speak or swallow. There was also some swelling on the brain because of trauma. She also caught some infections, but they were nothing out of the ordinary. Luckily though, the tumor was not cancerous, so there was no chemotherapy or radiation.

Because Jenna couldn’t swallow, she had to have a feeding tube through her nose. That was very aggravating to her and affected her attitude towards her physical therapists. Luckily, in early January, she passed a swallowing test and was allowed to stop using the feeding tube. Because of not being able to swallow since her surgery, Jenna had to spend extra time in the hospital. She came home on January 25th, after about two months in the hospital.

Once she came home, Jenna learned how to walk and talk much better with a lot of support and pushing along. She was home for about three weeks when my mom and I fulfilled my birthday promise. I went to Jenna’s house and spent her sixth birthday with her, going to the park, watching TV, playing with dolls, eating cake, and—best of all—opening presents! It was nice to spend time with my little friend again.

Now, six months after her surgery, Jenna is as healthy as any normal six-year-old. She is still learning to talk better, but you can understand what she says. She can swim, walk, run, play games, and she’s still my best six-year-old friend. Our families are close, and we’re looking forward to our summer reunion in Orlando. Going through Jenna’s ordeal made me realize that not everything is about what you’re doing with your friends. I know that your elders are supposed to be the ones with the most wisdom, but Jenna has taught me a lesson that I’ll never forget.

~Kelsey Johnson

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