Tuesday, October 18, 2011



Jessica Morris 9/24/1987-8/29/2008 
A True Hero

It was 7th grade and the first year of junior high. Jessie and I had all but one class together, though we didn’t know each other besides a familiar face from ccd. It only took one conversation during an ice breaker in Mrs. Reynolds science class to discover we had the same sense of humor.  When Jessie invited Dani, Amanda, and I to come join the hip hop class she was starting at her mom’s studio. We all agreed it was something we’d love to do. And the rest is history.

In high school a few more people joined our group of friends, and those 4 years became some of the most memorable with secrets shared, inside jokes, school dances, splitting wraps at lunch half with pickles for Jess, half plain for me, trips to dunkin in the escort when we were supposed to be in class. Dissecting a pig fetus that we named piggy drop and made dance while everyone else in class stared. Random limo rides around providence with some of our closest friends and my little Italian g-ma who Jessie adored. Jessie choreographing some of the spirit week dances, one in which she made me do my crazy dance directly in front of the judges to win us comedy points.
Senior year we spent so much time together during variety show, Jess’s solo during the show still gives me chills when I think about it. She sure did outshine the other two choreographers by far. Graduation time came and went with our trip on the bay queen, Prom, the ceremony itself and post grad. We had big plans for the summer, we wanted to go to six flags at least 10 times. Before we had to worry about the stresses of college. Nothing could prepare any of us for what we were headed for. 

  One night I got a phone call, it was Jessie. She needed to talk to me about something. She told me that she had gone to the doctor to find out what was causing her severe cramps. I was confused I said because she had said it was ovarian cists, but she then said to me “ I have ovarian cancer.”  I can still hear the words to this day ringing in my ears.  I didn’t know what to say or how to react, I was just in shock. After we had gotten off the phone I was still in shock, I sat in the same spot for about a half an hour and then got up and drove to Jessies.

Her hysterectomy came and when she was out of surgery Dani and I had some surprises for her, including a CD we made to make her smile. As long as there were hospital visits from then on there was most likely a present coming too, just so I could see her beautiful smile that I miss so much. My car was always full of little pink tickets from Women and infants’ parking lot because by the time we left usually the lot was closed and we didn’t have to pay for parking. Every night I would have to text Jessie that I made it home safe.
Unfortunately as design school got more intense I didn’t get to see Jess as much as I wanted to. But there was always a text or a phone call. As we tried to out do each other with our greeting. If I said hey strawberry shortcake, she would come back with hey chicken pot pie what’s up? It always put a smile on both of our faces, and if she ever came out with something completely random I usually laughed out loud in class as I got an awkward stare from my professors and other students.
For those of you who didn’t know Jessie, I’m glad you can have a chance to get to know her through our stories and the home videos. Because I know there will never be another person in my life as strong, heroic, and beautiful a person as my best friend Jessie. 


 Every woman should be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Most women don't get diagnosed in time. Please share Jessie's story with every woman in your life. It was unusual for someone so young to get it but you can never be too careful. Jessie's wish was to share her story and get the word out about this deadly disease. Please read on:

“Jessica Morris had just turned 18 when she sat with her mother in a doctor's office and heard the news. She had ovarian cancer, and the tumor was large and advanced. She would need an immediate hysterectomy. Her mother started to cry.  Jessica asked what was happening, what it all meant - what was a hysterectomy? Her uterus would need to be removed, her mother, Kathie, said. Jessica looked back blankly. No babies, her mother said. Jessica, a dance teacher who loved working with children, broke down.  As those around her wept, Jessie, her family's flamboyant princess, the center of attention, immediately brushed away her tears, and resolved to turn her pain into something positive. "Mom, I might have cancer, but cancer's not going to get me," she told her mother. "Ovarian cancer picked the wrong diva."   She underwent the hysterectomy in October of 2005. Within a month of surgery, she was back at her alma mater, Lincoln High School, speaking to classes of girls about ovarian cancer. She did the same with the teens in her dance studio. She called the disease a silent killer, because it had ravaged her body long before she even knew she had it. As she and her family tried to learn more about the cancer that had stricken her, however, they found few places to turn. Plenty of information was available about breast cancer, but they found few resources nationally, and virtually none locally, for dealing with ovarian cancer. Her family searched for a local chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, but none existed. So they founded their own, and began raising money for research, awareness and support.     

After several successful dinners and golf tournaments in 2006 and 2007, Jessica and her family set their sights on something bigger: a walk to promote awareness, with Jessica leading hundreds of marchers. This Sunday morning, her family's vision will come true, as an expected 500 men and women will march through Roger Williams Park on the state's first walk for ovarian cancer. More than 300 walkers have signed up already, and the event has raised $15,000 to fight ovarian cancer in Rhode Island.
                But Jessica will not be there.

                JESSICA MORRIS was not a typical ovarian cancer victim. It is rare to see ovarian cancer strike a woman under 35, and when it is diagnosed, the disease often claims its victim within months. In women age 35-74, ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. One woman in 58 will contract the disease during her lifetime, and the American Cancer Society estimates that 15,520 women will die from ovarian cancer this year.

If the cancer is caught early, the survival rate is high. But with so little awareness and few easy tests, most women are deep into the disease before diagnosis. Jessica's first signs came toward the end of high school, when she experienced sudden weight loss, and then weight gain, and painful menstrual periods.  After her cancer was discovered and her hysterectomy complete, Jessica began chemotherapy. Her long, thick, red hair, her calling card, fell out. She kept smiling, and dancing. The cancer seemed to disappear, and for a short time, everything returned to normal.                 
Then it came back, stronger. She never wavered, however. They only saw her smile break once, said her aunt, Colleen Ricci. Jessica was talking to her grandfather, who had also come down with cancer, and the two were talking about their diagnoses. "Papa, I'm pissed. I'm pissed," Jessica told him. "He said, you know what, honey, you can say it. I'm pissed too," Colleen said.

     The tumor grew, squeezing her intestines and her urethra. Jessica was fitted for a colostomy bag, and for tubes to take her urine from her kidneys. Instead of hiding away, she continued to teach dance whenever possible. For a 2007 recital, she tied off the tubes coming out of her body, and danced in seven numbers, to the delight of the audience. But in the past year, the situation worsened. She couldn't keep any food down, and vomited three to five times a day. She contracted the MRSA virus several times. Fluid had begun to pool in her legs, and walking became more difficult. She refused to give up. A dance recital was scheduled for June at East Providence High School. That morning, Jessica took a blood infusion, slipped on her tap shoes, and tapped out of the hospital, to the nurses' delight and the horror of the janitor.
She tied off her tubes jutting from her body, put on her dance outfit, and performed one dance, to a massive ovation. She planned to go out with the other dancers afterwards, to feel normal for at least one night. Then her mother came backstage. Her blood work had come back from the hospital, and it wasn't good: she needed to return right away. Jessica was silent for a moment, then nodded, and packed her bags for Women & Infants. 

THE DAY Jessica Morris died, preparations for the walk at Roger Williams were almost complete.
It was two weeks ago today, and friends and family were busy stuffing envelopes and mailing letters. Jessica was in good spirits, and hoping to lead the walk, even though she might have to ride in a wheelchair. This summer, her doctors had told her that her cancer was terminal, and asked if she wanted to end chemo. She refused, saying, "I'm not ready for it to be over yet. I'm not going anywhere yet." Jessica had recently contracted pneumonia, but she seemed to be coming out of it, and doctors had told her that she could probably leave the hospital that day. Then it happened. Jessica suffered a seizure. She was alive and semi-conscious, but it was clear she wasn't coming back. "She waited for me to get into bed with her," Kathie said. "I held her for 15 minutes, and we talked to her, and then she let go."
                Surrounded by family and friends, Jessica died Aug. 29 at 9:50 p.m.

                Her death was in some ways expected, but it has left her family in shock nonetheless. Thumbing through pictures of his daughter, John Morris said it still seems like she will walk through the door. "I don't know how you recover from losing a child. I really don't. There's no guide book. There's no manual," John said.  Perhaps, he hopes, if one woman hears Jessica's story, and because of it catches her cancer early, Jessica will live on. “

 If this helps one woman out there, then I'm doing my job. I miss you Jessie and I'll love you forever <3 
Thank you for reading <3 Jell-Lynn

In memory of our beloved Jessie I made these pieces:

I bought this angel at Savers, spray painted it white and broke up some blown glass, pinks for Jessie because it was her favorite color.

An angel for our angel.

I glued the pieces on the base and the backs of the wings. 

The wings are significant to me because of the tattoos I got for Jessie and my grandmother

 The next piece I did was a butterfly, because when we see a butterfly we say it's Jessie.

I used the teals and greens that go along with the NOCC logo.

I added some blues in there to complement the teals and greens.

Thank you again for reading!

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