“I was gonna write some long thing but some of you guys deserve to know,” the 34-year-old wrote on Facebook. “On October 2nd I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. It has aggressively spread throughout my body and is incurable.”
Jael, who competed on the reality show in 2007, said that “with treatment, it may prolong my life longer than the ‘few months’ doctors said I could make it.” She ended on this heartbreaking note: “I don’t want to die. I need another one of those miracles that I got back in 2013," likely referring to an intervention in 2013 that led to her sobriety, according to People.
Jael also wrote on her Instagram bio that she’s fighting inflammatory breast cancer. Her friends have created a GoFundMe to help with medical costs, noting that she has started chemotherapy.
“What we do know is that Jael is putting all of her energy and drive into fighting this insidious disease and can use as much support and love as possible,” the GoFundMe campaign says. “Jael is in tremendous pain right now and is unable to work. In a month, she will be let go from her job and lose her health insurance,” they added. The campaign has raised nearly $8,500 so far.
It’s a rare and “very aggressive” form of cancer where cancer cells block a person’s lymph vessels in the skin of the breast, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). It’s called “inflammatory” because the breast will usually look swollen and red.
Again, this is a rare form of breast cancer: It happens in about one to five percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S., per the ACS. Most of these cancers develop from cells that line a woman’s milk ducts in her breast and then spread throughout the breast and possibly, the body.
Inflammatory breast cancer often moves quickly (in a matter of weeks or months) and it’s usually either stage III or IV by the time it’s diagnosed. Jael revealed that her inflammatory cancer is metastatic, which means it has already spread to another part of the body, per the ACS. Compared with other forms of breast cancer, women with inflammatory breast cancer tend to be diagnosed at a younger age.
The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer can be pretty distinct. They include swellingor redness that can affect a third or more of a person’s breast. The skin may also look pink, reddish purple, or bruised and can develop ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange, the ACS says.
A patient may also notice a fast increase in their breast size, a feeling of heaviness, burning, or tenderness in their chest, or an inverted nipple, the ACS says-and if there is a lump in the patient's breast, she often won't feel it.
The ACS makes a point of noting that there are other health conditions (including an infection or injury) that can have similar symptoms but, if you develop any of these, you’ll want to get it checked out.
In a GoFundMe update posted Wednesday, Jael’s friends said that she’s “sleeping soundly” at the hospital and will soon undergo a second of chemotherapy. “She has continued to fight and has maintained an optimistic outlook throughout her treatment,” they wrote. “The road ahead may be quite long and challenging at times, and your continued support, love and prayers are needed.”