Beating Breast Cancer

by Kerry Shorr Oct 2014

Beating Breast Cancer

At 32, Jennifer Martinez had it all: a supportive husband, two daughters and her own successful PR company. So when a cancer diagnosis threatened her life, she refused to let it all tumble down.

Resplendent in a graphic print dress and a pixie coif, Jennifer Martinez appears relaxed, albeit out of place, at City Diner, a kitschy, greasy spoon in West Palm Beach. “Don’t worry,” she soothes, when I apologize for running late. “I just got here a few minutes ago.”

It’s honest admissions like this that have made Martinez, owner of the Wellington-based JLM Communications, one of South Florida’s most sought-after public relations pros.

Even when she was diagnosed in November 2013 with stage 1A breast cancer, and opted for a double mastectomy to stamp out future recurrences, she came clean with everyone – including her clients.

“They have put their trust in me, and I wanted to be completely transparent,” the now 33-year-old says. She feared some would react adversely to the news, but their response was unanimous: They were sticking by her side.

It was during a client meeting that Martinez first found out she had cancer. “The doctor telephoned from his vacation to tell me the biopsy results,” she says. “My head was spinning, but I kept reminding myself we had caught it early and needed to get the tumor out fast. When my client asked if everything was alright, I just blurted it out.” But his response surprised her: his mother was a cancer survivor, too.

“I’m always amazed by how many people have been touched by this disease,” Martinez admits.

Rewind back two months: September 2013. Two days before her annual gynecological appointment, Martinez found a small lump in her breast. Her gynecologist told her not to worry – she was too young to have breast cancer and had no family history – and to come back in a year. Remembering that her father had died from a rare form of liver and pancreatic cancer because he had been diagnosed too late, she refused to wait. They agreed she would return in two months for a mammogram.

When her biopsy results came back positive, Martinez conceded to a double mastectomy. “I was fine with having them removed. They’re replaceable. My life is not.”

Her instincts may have helped save her life, but Martinez credits her husband, Gil, and their families for pulling her through cancer’s darkest moments. “Everyone was amazing. Gil never missed a doctor’s appointment and our families were always chipping in to make meals, run errands, or watch our daughters, Madison and Annabelle.”

Before beginning chemotherapy, Martinez was contacted by the American Cancer Society to act as publicity chairwoman for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Palm Beach Walk on Oct. 18 at Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach.

She was surprised. At that time, only her family, clients and a few close friends knew she had cancer. The person who recommended her to chair the event didn’t even know she had cancer.

Her schedule was packed with client meetings and media events, but Martinez jumped at the opportunity to help increase public awareness about the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.

Today, Martinez is 100 percent cancer-free. She ponders the advice she would give a new cancer patient.

“You are stronger than you think,” she says, matter-of-factly. “From the beginning, I knew I wasn’t going to let cancer beat me. It was going to be a rocky road for a year of my life. But that’s all I was giving it. Now, I’m done.”