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City native documents cancer fight in blog

Jennifer Cline Linnabary, a 1978 graduate of Bellefontaine High School, knew something wasn’t right earlier this year when she began to feel that she needed to get things in order.

Jennifer Linnabary, originally from Bellefontaine, sits Tuesday with a display of the blog she has been keeping at www.ziggy-fights.com since she was diagnosed in May with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Jennifer Linnabary, originally from Bellefontaine, sits Tuesday with a display of the blog she has been keeping at www.ziggy-fights.com since she was diagnosed in May with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
She did as much traveling and training for her work as early as she could in the year and kept her calendar clear.

The reason for the hibernation she felt was approaching came with the news she received May 14 that she had mantel cell lymphoma, a rare but aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Now her calendar is filled through August with chemotherapy treatments followed by a stem cell transplant.

“As we drove to the office to pick up the new patient paperwork, I Googled ‘mantel cell.’ The first thing that came up was that it hit mainly older men. I laughed; just my luck,” she said via e-mail. “The next site took the wind out of my sail. I was ... not ready to face a foe that is so rare and has a high mortality rate. I sobbed uncontrollably. Then I got mad.”

However, her family — Tim, her husband of 27 years and children Rebecca, 17, and Ben, 14 — and numerous friends have gathered around her to offer their support as she battles the cancer that strikes approximately 3,000 people per year or 6 percent of all NHL cases diagnosed annually.

Her sister, Nora Cline who now lives outside Boston, started a Web site for Jennifer and others to blog at www.ziggy-fights.com in conjunction with Mrs. Linnabary’s idea for her immediate family to journal daily.

“I have always used writing as a stress reliever and thought it would be helpful to all of us to put our thoughts into words,” Mrs. Linnabary said. “I was ready to go out and buy fancy journals. ... I am embarrassed to say that I never thought of the Internet until (Nora) said that she was setting up a Web site for me. It was a ‘duh’ moment.”

The name of the blog grew out of her college nickname based on her love of the comic strip. She also learned after her diagnosis that Ziggy is the official “spokescharacter” for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

She explained that blogging allows her to focus on the healing instead of the diagnosis, while keeping her mind active because she is used to multitasking and juggling schedules. It is also a way for her to use humor as a stress reliever.

Having the information in a public place takes the stress off her family having to answer every phone call and e-mail, and allows the people with disabilities she works with to monitor her situation and send her messages.

It also helps with the loneliness.

“I am overwhelmed, humbled, embarrassed and blessed by all of the support. People have cooked meals for us, taken my daughter out to practice for her driver’s test, which she passed, brought me Graeter’s ice cream in the hospital — the list goes on,” she said. “My co-workers even bought me a Kindle so I could continue to read.”

Before her diagnosis, her time was devoted to her family and her work at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She was one of the “founding mothers” of Project SEARCH, a program that provides employment and education opportunities to individuals with intellectual disabilities. More than 60 people are employed at the hospital preparing trays for operating rooms, delivering blood products and stocking equipment because of her work.

Bellefontaine was one of the first Ohio cities to replicate the program that has now spread to 23 states, as well as England, Canada and Australia.

Therese Fussinger, with whom she works, has undertaken her cause by joining the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training to prepare for the United States Air Force Marathon on Sept. 19 in Dayton. She is committed to raising at least $1,600 to help the society.

Mrs. Linnabary is currently undergoing her second round of treatment at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati and is expected to return home as early as Tuesday.

There are two rounds to follow in July.

“I still have my rough times and tears come easily for me, but for once in my life, I am not embarrassed by those tears,” she said. “I use those to soothe my soul and wash out the negative. Then I lift my head up and prepare for the next round.”

Mrs. Linnabary’s journey can be followed at www.ziggyfights.com. For more information on donating to Ms. Fussinger’s efforts, visit http://pages.teamintraining.org

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