Tuesday, Nov. 5 was a landmark day for Jennifer Bridges and her young son Julian Peace Bridges.
That's the day 21-month-old Julian finished his second round of chemotherapy, having spent three weeks at Doernbecher Children's Hospital and the pair was preparing to head to their Sherwood home for a bit.
For the Bridges, it's been a long two months that began shortly after a return trip from Ethiopia where the family is heavily involved in volunteer work.
Bridges said Julian was fussy and showing signs of discomfort. After several visits to pediatricians, he ended up in the emergency room of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.
"And they did a scan and found a huge tumor," said Bridges. Future tests showed Julian had stage 4 metastasized neuroblastoma.
Diagnosed Oct. 16, Julian started chemotherapy on Oct. 18.
Asked how the toddler, who recently finished almost three weeks of chemotherapy, is taking all of this, Bridges calls Julian "a little fighter."
Much of that is due to the boy's optimistic personality.
"He's wonderful," said Bridges.
Bridges said Julian will now have six weeks of chemo every three weeks, with tumor removal surgery, radiation and other procedures lying ahead.
"It's a two year process," she said. "His chemo will be in-patient so it will be three to five days each time and recovery just depends on how well he does each time with treatment."
Residents of Tualatin for 20 years, the Bridges family is in the process of renovating and moving into a Sherwood farm house.
A longtime Sherwood business owner, Bridges owned Bridges Financial and Realty in Old Town Sherwood for more than a dozen years and during that time began taken trips to Oromia, Ethiopia, where she and her family fell in love with the Oromo people who occupy a region that's home to 35 million people.
"We've always done volunteer work and have always done stuff in the community, it's just that we closed the company, took a two-year complete sabbatical from real estate just to do the volunteer work and that's been about 10 years when I first went (to Ethiopia)," said Bridges.
But she went one step further than that, creating Embrace Compassion, an organization that partners with a rural village in Ethiopia to encourage family preservation, education, job creation and humanitarian relief. Bridges is founder and executive director of the group.
"It's really important to say we do it in teamwork with our Ethiopian team. There's local people here who are Ethiopian … and it's not about us being amazing but people coming together to do something to make a difference," said Bridges. "Anyone can commit themselves and give of their overflow and do something to make a difference."
Meanwhile, Bridges said she doesn't want people to feel sorry for her because she knows there are others going through difficult times.
"There's so many people, especially this time of year that are going through hard things and you just don't know (so) just to be more gentle and more kind …" she said, adding that she'd like people to simply "do something to not be so rushed and so busy, that maybe someone else is going through something else hard."
Cassie Williams, who has known Bridges since 2013 and who has a son from Ethiopia, said she's moved with all the work Bridges has done in that country. (Williams and her son are headed back to Ethiopia in March, bringing medical supplies on behalf of Embrace Compassion.)
"I have been in awe of Jennifer's strength and faith during such a hard time for their family," said Williams. "The shock of suddenly finding out your 21 month old has stage 4 cancer would crush the spirits of most. Yet, Jennifer continues to work tirelessly on behalf of others, even while taking care of all of little Julian's needs. Their family is such an inspiration to myself and so many others."
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help out the family at gofundme.com/f/julian039s-fight-against-neuroblastoma-cancer
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