Maryland Woman Battling Cancer Celebrates '83rd' Birthday

The mother of a young boy who died from a rare neuromuscular disease is carrying on his legacy as she fights for her own life.

Jeni Stepanek is the mother of Mattie Stepanek who became well-known after appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Mattie was a child poet and peace activist who inspired many with his words.

In 2004, he died from a rare disease related to muscular distrophy. He was just shy of his 14th birthday. The same disease took the lives of his three siblings.

"I still cry. A mother never, ever gets used to an empty lap," Stepanek said.

Stepanek suffers from the same disease and is now battling cancer. She said she developed a rare and life threatening complication caused by the cancer treatment.

"I'm at the point where no more bad news is good news," Stepanek said.


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Stepanek said she misses her children, but accepts loss is part of life and is choosing to live the rest of her life with purpose.

Part of that purpose is crossing off her bucket list and accomplishing things while she still can.

"Who doesn't want to do one more thing and celebrate one more day?," Stepanek said.

On Saturday, dozens came to Stepanek's 83rd birthday party -- even though Stepanek is turning 57.

She said doctors once told her she wouldn't live past 38, so when she did, Stepanek decided she would live to 83 instead.

"I look good for 83 don't you think?"

Oprah showed up to the party to surprise Stepanek. The two developed a special bond when Mattie was alive.

"It was about bringing together people who were part of my life's journey," Stepanek said.

Stepanek said she doesn't know what the future will bring, but lives by the philosophy that hope is real and peace is possible.

"I wouldn't say it's a sense of absolute urgency and emmenence, but there is a sense that now is the moment I have," she said.

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