LEWISTON — You can hear the exhaustion that comes from battling cancer in Jacklyn Ann Holt’s voice.

The 43-year-old Lewiston mother of Quincy, 5, and Olivia, 12, was rushed to the hospital in October 2020, where doctors discovered a large mass on her cervix and performed immediate surgery to rule out cancer.

Instead, they discovered an aggressive form of the disease that had possibly spread to her lymph nodes and stomach.

“The day before my second surgery, I drove myself to Boston to get a second opinion,” Holt wrote on GoFundMe.com. “I met with an amazing oncologist from Mass General. She stared directly at me and said, ‘Please call me Amy,’ and with that, I felt a huge rush of uneasiness flood over my entire body. She spoke soft, yet direct: ‘If cancer is found in your stomach, you have months to live.’”

Jacklyn Ann Holt poses with her daughter Olivia and son Quincy on Friday in their Lewiston home. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Holt spoke last week through tears as she discussed the possibility of dying. Her words were as devastating as the cancer, but she remains steadfast, courageous and refuses to burden loved ones with her apprehension about the future. 

“It is really sad. I went to Gracelawn (Memorial Park in Auburn) and I met an (Auburn couple) who gave me a plot,” said Holt, a 1996 Edward Little High School graduate. “I met them and we cried and hugged. It is a pretty good spot. It was really hard to do.

She continued, “The outpouring of support I have received has been overwhelming. I am just taking it one day at a time. So I am going to get cremated. The GoFundMe is going to be for my kids.”

The online campaign raised more than $22,000 in just the first eight days.

At this point in her treatment, she is receiving chemotherapy to keep the cervical cancer at bay and prolong her life.

“I believe it could have been caught (early),” Holt said. “It is really scary. I wasn’t prepared. I was laid off from a job. I was working for a temp agency and I didn’t have insurance, so I couldn’t get tested. I feel bad because I could have found it earlier. I didn’t have insurance.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The earlier cervical cancer is detected, the more successful treatment tends to be. Common treatments include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of all three.”

The doctors told her that the tumor was so large that they could not perform a complete hysterectomy “because they believed they couldn’t get everything,” Holt said. “The original plan was to do chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor, but the results of my PET scan came back and they said it spread to my lymph nodes and possibly to my stomach.”

Holt tries to remain hopeful for her two children as the chemo treatments wear her out.

“I had so much hope and prayer when I came into the office, and they said that every biopsy that they took, there was cancer,” Holt said. “The cancer has spread even further. That’s where I am at.”

Her medical team ruled that since the cancer had spread too far, and she was considered terminal, her doctors didn’t want to put Holt through the challenges of radiation. They opted to use chemotherapy instead.

‘I AM DOING MY BEST’

There were no signs that cancer was about to disrupt Holt’s life before last October. Her last job was deposit accounting for TD Bank. She worked for TD for over a year through a temp agency before she was hired permanently on Sept. 1, 2020, and her insurance kicked in Oct. 1.

At that point, Holt had experienced painful menstrual cycles, but dismissed them as cysts or a fibroid. She knew cancer was not in her family medical history. She promised herself that when she obtained insurance, she would see a physician.

But the severe pains she experienced on that October day were unbearable and forced her to call an ambulance. After the two surgeries and subsequent tests confirmed the spread of the cancer, she began treatment.

“When I started my first round of chemo, I didn’t understand how toxic and ill it made me feel,” she said. “I was debilitated. I couldn’t take care of my kids. It was really, really rough for me. I applied for short-term disability through my office and I was granted it. TD Bank was really good. I am able to manage my rent and bills, but it is really tight.”

Jacklyn Ann Holt plays a board game with her daughter Olivia and son Quincy after school Friday in their Lewiston home. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Holt does have a support system, which includes immediate family members, the two fathers of her children — Ethan Wall and Ben Mace — and aunts. Rachel Trefsger, her best friend from the fourth grade, visits Holt, brings her food and makes a to-do list to keep Holt focused as well as help her make tough decisions.

“My dad, Don, and my stepmom have been really great, but my dad is ill,” Holt said. “He checks in on me every day. I have a couple of aunts, who aren’t local, check-in. I’ve been really lucky to have two amazing fathers of my children.”

Holt received the news after one of her tests came back from the doctor Thursday.

“I have good and bad news,” she said. “The lymph nodes are stable. No new cancer there. I am just concerned about my stomach and all the pain that I am having. I start another round of chemo on Monday.”

She faces two days of chemo for six hours each day followed by hydration as she clings to any scrap of hope.

“I am sick for a little while and then I usually start feeling better the second or third week,” she said. “The second or third week we will potentially discuss a PET scan for my belly. I am in a lot of pain. I had to double up on all my pain medicine. It is good news, though. It is good news about my lymph nodes. It means it is not in another organ, yet. It is OK, it is OK,” she said.

“Even living to Monday to get the chemo, I am so happy about it. Isn’t that crazy?” she said.

She said her children have become a great source of her strength, but more tears well up whenever she explains how important they are to her.

“My dear, sweet Olivia. She is beautiful in every way. . . She is soft, fragile, gentle and so loving. She loves art, animals and everything horses,” Holt wrote in her GoFundMe page.

She described Quincy as handsome, bold, vivacious and a jokester, “who is super loving and so smart.”

“My whole life has been turned upside down in just a couple of months,” Holt said. “It happened so quickly. I am not ready to leave. I am doing my best.”


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