‘Jenny’s Journey’

New book explores daughter’s battle with cystic fibrosis

Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER Julie Sunderland displays her new book about her daughter at Friendship Bookstore in Burnham.

McVEYTOWN — A fall down the basement steps landed Julie Sunderland in the position to write a book about her late daughter’s experiences with cystic fibrosis.

Sunderland lost her 20-year-old daughter in October of 1994. She kept journals tucked away with memories of Jenny in her home. She knew there was a story to be told, but Sunderland was not ready to relive those memories.

Cystic fibrosis includes the presence of frequent lung infections and coughing of mucus that also impacts other organs of the body. There is no cure.

In July of 2015 a former pastor of Sunderland’s family randomly called her. She hadn’t spoken to him since he left the area years ago. He called her from his home in Philadelphia and told her he was praying for her. He felt a nudge to call her and tell her she needed to write that book about Jenny’s situation.

Sunderland dusted off the journals and even started an outline. But the pages to her future book remained blank for two more months. She felt she didn’t have the time to devote herself to such a task.

“On Sept. 25, 2015, I was hurrying down into the basement and my shoes were untied. I fell and broke my leg. I felt like the Lord was telling me as I lay there, ‘Now you have time to write the book.'”

The book came together more quickly than she imagined. She came across a publishing group known as Christian Faith Publishing. She sent them her manuscript, and they agreed to print her daughter’s story.

The book, “Jenny’s Journey,” was released in November and is available at Friendship Bookstore and Amazon.com.

Jenny was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 1 year and 9 months in 1975.

A pediatrician at Lewistown Hospital made the diagnosis, Sunderland said. Jenny was sent to a cystic fibrosis clinic and would stay there over various intervals of time.

“They would admit her for two weeks. She would be on antibiotics. It also affects the pancreas and she had to take enzymes with every meal and snack. They had her constantly on antibiotics.”

Jenny also underwent the tedious task of breathing treatments from morning to night. She needed to breathe in a mist and wear a mask around her face.

“We did that until she passed away at age 20,” Sunderland said.

The fact that Jenny lived to be 20 years of age was a blessing in many ways. “The doctors said she would only live into her teens. But she pushed it a step further,” Sunderland said.

Jenny lived a full life in her two decades, her mother said. She and husband John taught their daughter the same principles they would have taught any child.

Jenny was the couple’s only child, and John taught her “to value things,” Julie said.

“He had her get a job so she could afford a car,” she said.

Jenny did the first part of her schooling at the Strodes Mills elementary and middle school. Julie then homeschooled Jenny through the high school years.

Julie said it has been bittersweet to think back to those years knowing that Jenny would now be in her early 40s.

Still, she said, she believes she was meant to tell her story because someone — a parent of a cystic fibrosis child –may need to feel that connection to someone who understands.