Community, strangers show support of Maxwell woman
When Jeanette Tongay of Maxwell started a GoFundMe.com page for her daughter, she never expected to get such an overwhelming response in such a short amount of time.
“It just floored both of us,” Jeanette said.
It all started about a year ago when her daughter, Jennifer Tongay, also of Maxwell, began having pain and tingling in her left leg. An MRI performed two months ago finally gave Jennifer the actual cause of the pain she was experiencing - she had a tumor in her spine.
“I left the appointment and stood there in awe. I didn’t know what to think,” Jennifer said of her reaction to the news.
It wasn’t until she was driving home from the neurologist’s office that the reality of what she was facing really hit her. For a 32-year-old single mother who has already faced thyroid cancer and undergone a hysterectomy, the way she chose to react to her diagnosis is evident of her true strength. While she could have taken the “why me” route, Jennifer instead chose to face it head-on, knowing she will get through.
“God only gives you stuff you can handle, but then he takes it a step further to make you a stronger person,” Jennifer said.
When Jeanette found out her daughter’s co-pay would be more than $1,800 just for the surgery and hospital stay, she knew she had to do something to help ease the financial burdens her daughter is facing. On Dec. 3, she began Jennifer’s GoFundMe page, an online fundraising website, as a way to make it easier for family and friends to donate. With the goal of raising $2,000, half of that amount was raised in a little more than one week.
“The Maxwell community has just come out in droves,” Jeanette said. Donations have come in from people they know and others they do not, with amounts ranging from $10 to $150. As of Dec. 23, $1,743 had been raised.
“It’s going to help her so much,” Jeanette said.
Jennifer had surgery to remove part of the tumor Dec. 6. The other part could not be removed because it is attached to the section of the spine that controls the nerves to her legs and bowels, according to a post Jeanette made on the fundraising website. Removing the entire tumor would have put Jennifer at risk of losing feeling in her lower body.
Last Wednesday, Dec. 18, Jennifer received the news that the tumor is benign and she will not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation at this time. It is a type of tumor that is prone to regrowth; she will have an MRI done every three months so doctors can determine its growth rate. If the tumor begins to threaten her mobility, she likely will have to undergo radiation or possibly another surgery.
Maintaining a Christmas spirit
Affectionately called a “Christmas crazy woman” by her mother, Jennifer has been working hard, despite her situation, to keep in the holiday spirit, especially for her 7-year-old son, Aiden. She will continue her Christmas tradition of baking holiday trays of cookies for family and friends, and plans to host her family on Christmas Eve at her house. Jennifer has even been doing some Christmas shopping online from home while she is recovering from the surgery.
In the midst of a season known for giving to others, Jennifer and her family appreciate all the Maxwell community and beyond have done for them. Even something as simple as a Christmas card asking how she is doing means a lot to Jennifer.
“It just fills my heart with love,” Jennifer said of the support. “Everybody has their own struggles, and for people to put aside their own struggles [to help me], it’s a godsend.”
Want to donate?
Visit Jennifer’s GoFundMe.com page at www.gofundme.com/5kvncg