Note: I just want to share that while I interviewed Jennifer, I also wish to honor her husband Cade with this post. She could not have done what she has done on her own. I know he works at least two jobs, and maybe more. After our interview, Cade had a subarachnoid hemorrhage (stroke like episode), and has recently been in and out of the hospital. Please pray or send good vibes their way. If you would like to donate toward their family, HERE is a link to a go fund me that was set up for them. I have not interviewed Jennifer about what care Cade currently needs because I don’t want to impose on her time or energy right now. I know from his facebook page that she got him a Hibiscus Ginger Kombucha, and if that’s not just another example of excellence in caregiving, I don’t know what is. The following is based on our original interview.
Jennifer started on her caregiving journey when her first son, Ethen, was born in 2001. She and her husband Cade had four children in quick succession. They had a six month old son when they found out they were expecting number four. She said, “I had four kids in five years, and that was crazy.” At that point, she didn’t want any more kids. She thought four was plenty. Jennifer and Cade thought, “We’re totally out of our league. No other parents our age have this many kids. We just need to chill out.”
When Roxy, their fourth child, was about 3 and a half years old, Cade and Jennifer received a letter from the state asking if they could go to a meeting about their nieces and nephew who were in foster care at the time. The three children were staying with family, but wouldn’t be able to stay where they were. Jennifer said she was a ball of nerves when she got the letter. She fretted all night and then went to her room and prayed. Instantly she knew the children were supposed to be with her and Cade. She knew she couldn’t make that decision on her own, so she left it to Cade to also decide. “I was not going to bring three kids into this house and take care of them myself. I wanted us to have independent knowledge that this was what we were supposed to be doing.”
Cade and Jennifer went to the meeting. The placement was supposed to be temporary, because the children’s parents were still trying to get their lives in order to reunite with them. Jennifer and Cade thought it likely that the kids could end up with them longterm.
The same week that they received the letter from the state, Jennifer found out that she was pregnant with another child. Worried people would think they were crazy, she and Cade waited a long time to tell people about the pregnancy. The three children came to live with them in May of 2010, making them a family of 9, and when Calum was born early the next year, they became a family of 10.
While the children were small, everything was pretty hard. All eight of the children were under the age of ten, and at one point the family had three children in diapers at the same time. Jennifer had to style the four girls’ hair, and help all of the kids pick out clothes for school. “There was so much laundry. It was very hard. I’m glad we’re in a new phase where they’re much more independent. It was just very labor intensive.”
Jennifer felt the importance of providing a parent and an advocate for her nieces and nephew. “I tried always to be an advocate for what was best for them, because they were coming from such a hard situation.” She said it was a blessing from heaven that the three kids just fit right in with her children. Merging the two families came easily, because the kids got along very well.
At the time they took the children in, their home was 1600 square feet, and they had four bedrooms, so all four girls were in one bedroom, and three boys were in another bedroom, and her oldest son had his own bedroom. She said his room was the size of a closet. Both Jennifer and Cade’s parents live nearby, and they provided a lot of support, including childcare when Jennifer had to go somewhere. In 2012, Jennifer and Cade adopted the children, and the family was sealed in the temple in December of that year.
When Calum, their youngest child, was almost five years old he became very ill. He was soon diagnosed with T Cell Lymphoma Cancer. Calum had to be life flighted to Salt Lake City, and Jennifer and Cade both went up with him for the first week. Jennifer stayed with him there for a month, which left the children home without her.
Their town, family, and faith communities stepped in and helped. People from their ward brought meals and came and did laundry. People arranged fundraisers and yard sales for the family. Jennifer said so much was done that she can’t even name all of it. Part of their house was demolished and people helped add on to it. Danny Campbell was a huge help, and many others contributed, including their parents.
Random people in the neighborhood helped as well. She said she thinks about writing thank you cards, but she doesn’t know where to start. She wondered if she should just stick a sign in their front yard that said, “Thank You Everyone!”
Calum was in treatment for two and a half years, from December of 2015 to early May 2017. He is doing great now. He lives the normal life of a nine year old. He gets sick a little easier than most people, and he has to check in with his doctors every three months to do blood work or scans. That will continue for awhile.
All of the children have grown, and they are more self sufficient now. Jennifer still has a busy job caring for them, though. “In ways it’s more busy now, but the busyness happens outside fo the home. I have to drive them places, coordinate schedules, etc.” After the next two kid birthdays, she will have six teenagers in the house at the same time. Her oldest has left on an LDS mission. She says there is sometimes drama, but it is usually normal hormonal stuff. Her kids get along so well. “The really don’t fight at all. It’s really great. I’ve been blessed. It makes caretaking easy.”
She shared this wisdom for people in a similar situation:
I feel like you can’t forget yourself. You can’t. You have to take that time, because it’s way too easy to get lost in whatever that focus is. I think that you still just have to do things for yourself. Once a week, once a month, you have to.
One of her favorite things to do is thrift shop. She goes out when she does her weekly grocery shopping, and hits the thrift stores if she has time. In the past, some of her self care has been a girls night out, or date nights with Cade. She is also skilled at macrame, and you can see some of her work on her Instagram feed @jjocampbell. I can vouch for her thrifting skills, because when I walked into her home it was cheery and inviting. I picked up a beautifully cross stitched cushion with colorful flowers on it and asked if someone she knew made it, but she had found it on her thrifting adventures.
I got a sense of peace in Jennifer and Cade’s home, and I believe that peace flowed from the strength and character of the awesome caregiver running the place.
Thank you for opening your heart to your bonus children and for guiding your son through his cancer care, Jennifer. May you have the support you need in your current caregiving roles. I honor you.