Every day is a blessing to Jackie, especially since she was diagnosed three years after her sister, Penny, in 2010. She said, “It felt like it was my turn to go through it. My mom, and two sisters gathered again, just like they did for Penny, and we all went together to my initial oncology appointment.”
Jackie’s cancer was also found during a routine mammogram, but she felt a dimple a few weeks earlier that she found concerning. After having her breast removed in April, she went through chemotherapy treatments every three weeks from June through November. Around Thanksgiving, she was scheduled to begin radiation therapy, but was involved in a serious car accident. When she arrived at the hospital, she told the doctor that her left arm and neck were hurting. After some tests and x-rays, the doctor was going over everything with her and said, “so, I see that your cancer has metastasized into your neck.” And Jackie said, “Wait! What? No. I didn’t know that.” It was stage IV. So, instead of beginning radiation on her chest, she started radiation to her spine. And for the next 10 years, she periodically underwent infusions, until she developed jaw issues.
She said, “when they say stage IV, the world stops. Even after going through chemo and radiation that year, the hardest thing was to put up my Christmas tree. I’m a collector of ornaments and it was so emotional to hang each one. Looking to the future was hard. And I was full of worry for my son who has a learning disability, wondering if he would make it on his own.”
Jackie is in remission, and after 10 years of treatment, her best advice is “to first, find something you can tolerate to eat, and as soon as you feel halfway decent – get up and walk. It helped my head, and it made me feel like I was circulating the medicine that would help me get better. Also, find a craft that occupies the mind. I took up crochet and would crochet during infusions. I also talked to the other patients and I would give them my creations. Do you need a hat? Here. Have a hat.” She said she believes in angels, but “sometimes you need an angel and sometimes you are the angel.” Advocating and helping others who are going through the same thing is its own form of medicine. She is always open to listening, offering advice, and even giving out her phone number to someone in need. “I have to help others going through it.”
Jackie’s nephew, Andrew, is a part of our Operations Team at Onco360 as a Clinical Trial Operations Advisor. He said, “Seeing my mother and aunt battle cancer for most of my teenage years is what led me to Onco360. As an adult, I feel like I am helping in the fight against cancer, which made me feel so powerless in my youth. To some people this is a job, but to me it is a reminder of what good can be done.”