THE I HEART JENNY STORY:
What would you do if you knew you only had a finite amount of time left on this earth?
It all started with a simple sticker to lift cancer warrior Jenny Vanderlinden's spirits- the now iconic "I Heart Jenny" sticker. It's since grown into feature length Documentary- an in progress journey that documents the ups and downs of Jenny Vanderlinden, a breast cancer survivor and mother of four incredible children, two sets of twins!
Jenny is positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation. “Certain variations (or mutations) of the BRCA1 gene lead to an increased risk for Breast Cancer and Ovarian Cancer. Women with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have up to a 80% risk of developing breast cancer by age 90; increased risk of developing ovarian cancer is about 55% for women with BRCA1 mutations and about 25% for women with BRCA2 mutations.” Jenny watched her mother pass away from ovarian cancer. Jenny's children are all susceptible to this genetic mutation as well.
Even after having a preventative hysterectomy, Jenny is now battling a deadly and rare form of ovarian cancer, called primary peritoneal cancer. Women who are at risk for ovarian cancer are also at increased risk for peritoneal cancer. This is even more likely if you have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations.
The hope of this documentary is to increase BRCA genetic mutation awareness, and to help change the landscape women's cancers. Jenny will not win this battle, but it is a battle her children should NOT have to face!
Despite Jenny’s adversity she continues to fill her days with adventure, infectious laughter, excitement, and joy. What's incredible is Jenny's ability to smile in the face of it all! Jenny will inspire you to take that leap of faith in your own life, and start living life to its fullest. What happens when you let go and start saying yes? Where will it take you? There is beauty in spontaneity, and in truly living in the here and now.
A note from Producer and Director Blake Babbitt:
Andy Dunn, the founder and CEO of Bonobos said, “If you can’t decide what to do, get on the road. You won’t find the answer. It will find you.” This philosophy seems to have worked well for him, and it perfectly encapsulates the “I Heart Jenny” journey thus far. Time is unfortunately of essence in our case, so the decision to get on the road is made often and easily. “Book the plane tickets, I’ll meet you there!” Plans for each trip are loosely sorted and discussed beforehand, bags are packed, equipment is stowed, and wheels are up. As we soar above the clouds, it’s what my crew and I are really getting into that’s not always foreseen. Yet, somehow the answers always seem to find us on the road, in the journey, and during the unexpected.
For as much preparation and organization one can do when producing a documentary of this nature, it’s the unpredicted that ultimately gives the film its magic. My crew and I like to call it Jenny Magic; those unexpected moments that leaves those of us behind the cameras reeling, crying, laughing, wincing, and learning. Ultimately, this documentary is a life lesson: a lesson on how to live life with open eyes, open hearts, to live fully in the moment, and to be acquiescent when facing the unknown.
I’m learning to expect the unexpected whilst on Jenny’s footpath. For those people that don’t know Jenny, physically following a woman who’s dying of cancer would be seemingly easy- you would suspect her to be in bed most days right? That couldn't be farther from the case when it comes to Jenny. My crew and I struggle at times to simply keep up with an infectious and invigorating energy that jumps out at you from within Jenny’s depth. "Hurry, grab the gear, we're going snorkeling!" says a woman that's just been told she has weeks left to live.
What we've also learned is that making a film can be a costly endeavor. As a crew of three, we are generally light on our feet and happy to live off of ramen! However, what many don't know is that the crew and I are based out of New York City, whereas Jenny lives in Colorado. We all have full time jobs in addition to this film, so we jump on a plane and abandon our 'day jobs' as frequently as possible to film Jenny's journey. As time speeds forward, the back and fourth increases- as does our budget. We still accept donations to help keep us 'on the road,' and to keep our cameras rolling. Go to the "contact and donate" page to help!
This is story that must be told. Not only is it inspirational, but it has potential to be life saving- in multiple forms. We are still in the midst of this journey, and one day soon we hope to share it with the world.
The I Heart Jenny logo has become a symbol for many. Beyond promoting BRCA, Breast and Ovarian Cancer awareness, it is also a symbol to take a risk, to say yes, to live your life to the fullest, to smile, to laugh, to dance, to hug your loved ones, and to embrace every moment you have on this earth as if it's your last. This is more than just a film… It is a Movement!
1.“Genetics” Breastcancer.org. 2012-09-17.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT!
LEARN MORE ABOUT JENNY'S STORY:
Listen to AYG List's April Yvonne Garrett's in-depth interviews with Jenny:
3 PART INTERVIEW:
READ THIS INCREDIBLE HUFFINGTON POST ARTICLE ABOUT JENNY:
-WRTTEN BY ROBYN GRIGGS LAWRENCE
HOW IT ALL STARTED- THE INITIAL PROMO: