WEST PITTSTON — Jeannine Daniels describes her daughter, Jessica Przywara, as the life of the party.
Jessica passed away at the age of 30 on Aug. 14 due to pancreatic cancer. She was a West Pittston resident and a 2003 graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School.
Jessica’s husband of four years, Matt Przywara, 31, has played the role of mother and father to the couple’s daughters, 2-year-old Sorsha and 8-month-old Remy, since Jessica’s death.
The entire family has chipped in to help Matt raise his girls with Jeannine and Matt’s mom, Tina Przywara, taking turns looking after them while Matt works at Scranton Dodge Chrysler Jeep RAM.
Joe Daniels, Jessica’s father, also helps out when he can and still hears kind remarks about his daughter through her friends.
“One of the things I’ve told everyone involved over the course of the last three weeks is that this stinks so bad because we were lucky enough to know her,” Joe said. “People who knew her on short acquantaince have expressed devastation and are so touched by having her in their lives. She lived in Colorado for a year and people from there are in deep devastation. This stinks because we were all lucky enough to know and love Jessi.”
While Jessica was sick, a GoFundMe page was set up to help Matt pay for medical expenses, as well as traveling costs to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
As of Aug. 28, the GoFundMe page has raised over $12,000 and is still being used to help Matt pay for other expenses and raise his daughters.
“There are not enough words that can say thank you,” Matt said of the page. “Everybody has been so helpful, and not just the people on GoFundme, but everyone at the viewing, my work, Jess’s friends and everyone has just been so helpful. I can’t find enough words to thank everyone. It’s just amazing how much help there is.”
Jessica began her struggles with cancer at the beginning of this year when the couple was told she had liver cancer.
“It started in January and I actually had my job interview at Scranton Dodge,” Matt said. “I came home that night and her skin was yellow. We called the doctor and they said they’d do some checks and then they gave us a call back and told us to go to the ER. They did a biopsy on her, took blood work and did a CT scan. The CT scan came back and showed a growth on her liver and we were thinking it was a common symptom with her gallbladder, but it came back with results of liver cancer.”
After five months of undergoing treatments at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, Matt and Jeannine said Jessica was still struggling from chemotherapy.
Eventually, she went to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where doctors discovered she had pancreatic cancer all along.
“If we would’ve known from the beginning what she had, that would have made a big difference,” said Jeannine. “She only had, from the time she was diagnosed, seven months until she died. The first five months she was sick as a dog from the chemo. Finally, they did find out what it really was and for the last two months she wasn’t throwing up all day, but if we would’ve known that she had pancreatic cancer from the beginning, and not liver and gallbladder like we were told, she could have lived another five months without being sick.”
The American Cancer Society’s website indicates there are six stages of pancreatic cancer and even the first stage has less than a 15 percent survival rate.
Matt said even though it was pancreatic cancer Jessica struggled with, it affected her liver, which he said is what the doctors noticed when first diagnosing her in January.
Matt and Jeannine hope Jessica’s story will convince other cancer patients to seek out a second opinion immediately.
“As soon as you’re diagnosed with cancer, make an appointment somewhere else,” Matt said. “Get help immediately and just get a second opinion because you don’t want to wait. That’s what we did — we waited, went through treatments and the cancer shrunk but it just came right back. You can’t wait with cancer.”
Although Jessica is gone, her spirit lives on in her family’s hearts.
Matt said it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly he loved most about his wife, saying he fell in love with everything about her.
“We were different and had different interests and I think that brought us closer,”he said. “I broke my leg a month after we started dating because I was in an accident and she stayed with me and supported me. She was just a loving, caring and a great person.”