Many mourn loss of Oak Ridge 5-year-old to brain tumor

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Abigail Jensen, 5, plays with her grandfather Arnold Jensen in January at her family's Oak Ridge Home. (Southeast Missourian file)

No matter how bad she felt, 5-year-old Abby Jensen always wanted to make others feel good.

Abby Jensen was diagnosed with a rare, inoperable brain tumor when she was 4 years old. Starting two weeks after her diagnosis, she made frequent visits to St. Louis Childrens Hospital, receiving chemotherapy treatment and later a trial medication paired with radiation. Sunday, nearly a year after her diagnosis, Abby passed away.

Abby fought hard against her brain tumor and would experience headaches and difficulty walking among many other symptoms, but her parents said she never stopped making people smile.

"She would do anything for a smile," Abby's mother Maegan said. "She loved to make people happy, even when she felt her worst she did everything she could to make other people happy."

Abby was always trying to create smiles. From crashing a frosted cupcake against her head, to throwing beads at her physical therapist, she had a creative eye for instigating laughter.

"Even after having brain surgery, she wanted to make us smile," Maegan Jensen said. She remembers Abby rolling her tongue and crossing her eyes into a goofy face even with bandages still wrapped around her head.

That was Abby's signature fun face. She was always trying to teach close family friend April Huffman how to make the expression, but April was never able to mimic it.

April -- who attended high school with Maegan Jensen -- was one of many people captivated by Abby's passion for life and fun. She started a fundraiser to help the Jensen family pay for Abby's medical bills, time off from work and travel expenses.

Huffman is among many in the community inspired by Abby and committed to helping the Jensen family. Last August more than 3,000 people attended a fundraiser for Abby hosted by the Cape Girardeau Police Department. Jon Jensen, Abby's father, is a Cape Girardeau police officer. On Saturday, supporters held a bake sale in Jackson on Saturday.

Sharing her story

After Abby's diagnosis, The Jensens started a blog dedicated to sharing her story and inspiring hope for other families with children battling health problems.

"We were told by our doctors not to Google anything about her condition, because we wouldn't find happy stories," Maegan Jensen said. "We started the blog to show other parents that you do not have to suffer and you should enjoy the time."

The blog, titled When Abby Smiles, can be visited at http://whenabbysmiles.blogspot.com/. Nearly 20,000 people have visited her page. Visitors can read entries about Abby snuggling with her little sister Sara, and dancing in the garden with her father and see pictures of Abby at the beach making sand angels with her sisters.

The blog also tells about one of Abby's favorite experiences: her visit to Disney sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"She wished to be in love and kissed by her prince charming," Maegan Jensen said. "She had so much fun at Disney and got to forget about other things."

After experimental treatments this winter, the tumor had shrunk to a third of its original size. They had to stop medication because of side effects. In April the tumor began to aggressively regenerate, and the family decided to stop chemotherapy and let Abby enjoy life at home.

Those wishing to celebrate Abby's life can join the Jensen family at 11 a.m. Thursday at Ford and Son's Mount Auburn Chapel Funeral Home.

"Abby had an incredible amount of spunk and love for life and love for people," Maegan Jensen said.

The Jensens ask those attending to wear bright colors to the service to celebrate the life and spunk and love Abby brought to the world.

Donations can be made to the family in lieu of flowers. Checks should be made to Jon or Maegan Jensen and can be given to the funeral home or the Cape Regional Credit Union.

rpayne@semissourian.com

388-3644

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