The Whole Story

My path crossed about a year ago with a special young woman named Jennifer Collins. Jen is several years younger than I with two kids, a boy and a girl, and a husband she loves to the stars and back. Life for Jen was chugging along, as it does for most of us, until the day she felt a lump in her breast. Those next several months were a blur as Jen's doctor diagnosed her cancer, performed a double mastectomy, and prescribed for her a rigorous cocktail of drugs to stop her cancer's spread. She managed her pain and fear behind closed doors and in private, keeping from her children the fear that kept her up at night and invaded her thoughts when she was awake. And though Jen thought she'd beaten her breast cancer, it spread. She now carries with her a label no man or woman should never bear: Stage Four Metastatic Breast Cancer Fighter.

Jen Collins lives every day to the fullest, seeing the beauty in simple things so many of us take for granted. And, every three months, she returns to her doctor for another frightening round of tests that will reveal how many grains of sand have slipped through her life's hourglass. Imagine that. Living with the fear of a bad test, a failed scan, an anomaly on an MRI, a mysterious new lump. 

How Jen has decided to live this next chapter is inspiring. It is everything I love about the family. She is hope and love and grace and optimism, and her love of life and family oozes out of the beautiful stories she tells.

I'm going to feature Jen's blogs here. I think she'll touch you. She speak to that little voice inside you that's never quite happy with the way things are. And perhaps your takeaway will be what mine is after I read her tender words: That we are blessed, and every single day is a gift.

Here is Jen's first blog post, "The Whole Story." Feel free to comment at the end and send her a message. Peace, everyone. Peace.


The Whole Story

by Jennifer Collins

The Whole Story

We have a rescue dog named Moose. He is a doberman. He is a big black dog with big white teeth and a big scary bark. He patrols the house on a regular basis like a night shift security guard. He stops at the front door and looks up and down the street. If there happens to be a child riding by on a bicycle, a mom pushing a stroller, or a neighbor jogging in front of the house, Moose starts barking and snapping those big teeth, pawing at the door frame.

He is loud. He looks ferocious. He is ready to protect if the need arises.

We have tried to train this overreaction out of Moose. We distract him, we reassure him that everything is alright, and we reward him for listening when we call him off the door. He is better than he used to be; but it seems he can’t help himself. He sees someone outside and he gets stressed out. He wants to alert us to the strangers outside. He barks to show his dominance and to scare them away.

And scare them away, he does.

As our neighbors walk by, they hear the barking, they see the paws on the window and the flashes of white teeth. Oh, and those poor unsuspecting folks walking around with clipboards or brochures who walk up to the door and ring the bell - they get an up close and personal encounter.

Moose makes a terrible impression.

They all see but just a glimpse of him, though. They see a big scary dog, but they don’t see the Moose we see. They don’t see him cuddled on the floor on Sunday afternoons, napping with my husband while he ‘watches’ football. They don’t see him following us around, hoping for a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. They don’t see him sitting patiently as my one-year old niece curls up next to him on his bed.

They don’t see that Moose, only the ferocious doberman that lives in that house with the barrel fountain in the front yard. But you know what? No matter what he does inside this home, those neighbors are going to form their opinion based on the ferocious dog with the scary bark. They will judge him by his reaction to something that stresses him out. They will judge him based on those few seconds it takes to walk in front of our house or to ring our doorbell.

That’s it. Decision made. That dog is a ferocious beast!

Now, think about that grumpy guy that works at the gas station. That woman that wasn’t so friendly on the phone when you called about your bill. That guy that cut you off last week at the intersection. The woman who rides with you in the elevator every day at work and never returns a ‘hello’.

How often do we assume the worst of people? How often do we profess to know someone based on little interaction? How often do we fill in the blanks about the parts we don’t know?

Maybe that guy at the gas station is mourning the loss of his wife. Maybe that woman on the other end of the phone was upset because she found out she was going to be laid off after 25 years of loyal service. Maybe that guy who cut you off just got a devastating phone call and was rushing to the hospital or to be by the side of a distraught family member. Maybe that woman who never speaks is hard of hearing and never hears you.

We can’t begin to write the rest of the story when we have only read the first chapter.

Think about one of your less-than-shining moments when you let the stress of the day get to you, when you let your words slip out without thinking, when you don’t handle a situation as delicately as you should have ...

Would you want that moment to define you?
Would you want someone to write your story based on your actions in that moment?

The next time you find yourself jumping to conclusions about someone, the next time you find yourself judging someone based on little information...

Think about my dog, Moose, barking and showing his teeth at my front door.
Then, think about the dog in that picture, just asking to be loved.
Then maybe show a little love to those people who sometimes bark and show their teeth. Because more than likely, they don’t even know it, but they are asking to be loved too.


  • I know all to well what it is like to be judged by people in this neighborhood and in general. What a great reminder that we never know what someone might be going through. Be kind and grateful that God knows the truth.

    Stacy Koltiska
  • Thank you for the gentle reminder which I need daily. You are an inspiration and I am so thankful for you.

  • Such truth & such great perspective! You are an inspiration.

    Amy S
  • Keep those positive perspectives coming Jen! Keeps me walking a kinder more companionate life.

  • Wow! You have an amazing talent with words. You put something so simple into perspective for people to relate too. How cool is your comparisons… a dog with white teeth and a deep bark to humans with the same demeanor. Love it! I hope you continue writing more and sharing your words. Thank you for helping us find the good in life.


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