Stories of Hope

Losing My 37-Year-Old Daughter to Breast Cancer: Why Early Detection Matters

Losing My 37-Year-Old Daughter to Breast Cancer: Why Early Detection Matters

Mike Friedman lost his daughter, Jennifer, to breast cancer in July 2021. Although Jennifer was diagnosed at a young age, she experienced 12 joyful, cancer-free years—including the birth of her miracle daughter—thanks to early detection.

Through his grieving, Mike felt called to share her story and let her “name be a blessing” to others. On behalf of the entire NBCF family, we thank Mike for his courage and heart in sharing Jenn’s story to reach more women.

I called her “baby Jenn” from the first day. Jennifer was adopted and she joined our family at a very young age. She was my second child and was a firecracker — a dynamo from day one.

She not only was a great kid growing up, but she ended up being a great mother and wife, and an incredible producer in the real estate business.

Jennifer loved life and she was always into health, physical fitness, eating right, and doing all the right things. This tragedy has hit even more when you delve into that.

A young Jennifer

Jennifer had a routine doctor’s appointment and the doctor said, “I think you need to be checked out. I see something that is a concern to me.” So Jennifer called me, and I dropped everything and met her at a clinic in Plano where she had all the mammograms and tests.

The doctor called Jennifer and I into the examining room. She was only 24 years old, and the doctor said, “Jennifer, you have breast cancer. You have Stage 3 breast cancer.” She didn’t even blink an eye.

I was beyond shell-shocked, did not know what to do. I’m a pretty type-A person, but we walked out of that doctor’s office, and I had no idea what to do. I started calling friends and asking, “Who’s the best surgeon in the city of Dallas?” Categorically, all said Dr. Grant.

Jennifer and her husband

I picked up the phone in my car and called Dr. Grant. I have no idea what I said or how I said it, but Dr. Grant answered — he didn’t know if I could pay the bill, didn’t know who I was from Adam, and said, “I will see you at my office whenever you get here.”

We got there about seven o’clock at night. He saw Jennifer, diagnosed her, and our next step was a mastectomy.

Jennifer was told by many doctors that there’s no way in medical science that she could have a child. We talked about freezing eggs, but it was too late. Magically, she got pregnant. She had this beautiful, incredible daughter that she named Harper who is as vibrant as any child can be.

Jennifer and her daughter Harper

Jennifer was 11-1/2 years cancer-free.

Our family believes in early detection. We believe in mammograms and the importance of women’s health. She did these things religiously for 11-1/2 years, had no problem whatsoever.

In about year 12, she found a little tiny nodule on her neck and it bothered her for a while. I kept pleading with her, “Go to the doctor. Go to the doctor.”

She finally went back to Dr. Grant, and he did a biopsy. When he came back with results, there were about four of us in the room and he said, “You have triple-negative terminal cancer.

That was probably one of the toughest days in my life. To walk away from that news.

Again, Jennifer didn’t cry. She didn’t say a thing. I mean, she just walked away.

All the people that were there just about fell on the ground in tears, but her mantra was, “I’m going to fight it. I’m going to beat it. It’s not going to define me. It’s not going to stop me.” Every day of her life subsequently, she lived that way.

Jennifer and her husband and baby daughter Harper

After going through seven or eight trials & radiations, the oncologist said, “There’s nothing else we can do.” Basically, go home and get your life in order.

From that point on, we took a family vacation to Turks and Caicos. The whole family was there. Jennifer participated in just about every single function.

Jennifer and her family vacation at Turks and Caicos

Two and a half weeks after we left Turks and Caicos, she passed away.

My hopes for the future? That someday, in my life, I can not be so torn up.

I mean, I’m dead inside. I’m a dead man walking inside. I’m sure time will heal that. I hope.

In the Jewish religion, we talk about “your name be a blessing,” and I hope people will bless her name and remember her positively.

Her husband John has been a wonderful, loving, incredible husband. Harper has thousands of pictures of her & her Mom together. I hope Harper will remember her. I know the family will do our part to make sure she’s remembered.

Jennifer and her daughter Harper smiling over flowers

The day Jennifer passed away, we got a package in the mail from a friend. They were these incredible chimes with a beautiful picture of Jennifer. We hung them in front of our swimming pool.  Every time Harper swims a lap, she looks up and says, “That’s my mommy.” Things like that, hopefully, will get us through all this.

Jennifer and daughter Harper playing with a ball

My entire life I have supported organizations that give back and the National Breast Cancer Foundation is an organization that does so much good. My hope is that this organization will flourish.

Breast cancer is horrible and it needs to be taken extraordinarily seriously. If you save one life, if you save one woman or one man, it makes everything worthwhile.

I can’t begin to express my sadness and unimaginable pain of losing my Jennifer. Jenn fought this terrible cancer with every single breath in her tiny body. We have been through hell fighting this disease. My intention is to try and help other women and men coming from the heart of a father who lost so much because of breast cancer.

Someday there will be a cure. A total cure. Then we’ll be on to something else.

Jennifer with her husband and daughter Harper outdoors in front of cacti garden

The NBCF team was fortunate to meet Jennifer 6 years ago when she shared her powerful testimony about early detection. We witnessed her love for family and community, dedication to advocacy, and heart for giving back.

To further her advocacy work, we’ve set up a special fundraiser in Jennifer’s honor. All donations will support NBCF’s programs centered around education, early detection, and support for women facing all stages of breast cancer. If you’d like to donate, click here. May her name be a blessing. 

National Breast Cancer Foundation is here for you and your loved ones. Whether you need support, education, or help during treatment, we have a team dedicated to get you the help you deserve.

Publish Date: December 15, 2021


  1. This brought me to tears. My grandmother died at age 58 from metastatic breast cancer when I was a kid. Then my mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 HER+ breast cancer at age 50. Amazingly, she fought it and is in remission 12 years later. Now at age 37, I have a large mass in my breast and I just feel the bad news coming. I will know soon; I’m going to the Dr tomorrow, I hope they can do testing asap. I have 3 children and my husband left me at Christmas. I’m terrified of what’s in future.

  2. This holds me together as I often have tears of joy as I am so grateful that to believe is to know we are here for a short time; Jennifer did so much for inspiration and to leave for her dear husband and incredible daughter. What a blessing. My oldest son fought lung, remission and many other spreading cancers. NIH kept him alive so he could donate all his cancers to cancer research. Tom and I did not have to speak; we were eye to eye. Our faith, trusting in the way we were taught will be the only rock knowing Jennifer lived her life fully and I am choked up.
    Everyone be aware we are not on this earth forever. Jennifer showed us how to live while she was here. I will not forget this family. Love, Hope.

  3. This story makes me emotional every time I read it. Thanks for sharing such an important message, NBCF & Mike. <3

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