Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

October 15, 2012

Jackson celebrating the joy of living

VALDOSTA — Talking with Julienne Jackson about her story of survival, the word “joy” keeps coming to mind, as she simply embodies the principal of joyful living. Every day is a blessing and a gift.

Jackson was just 47 when she discovered a lump in her breast by accident, and in three short weeks between the biopsy and the surgery, the cancer progressed from Stage 1A to Stage 2B. The cancer was in two of her lymph nodes and the entire breast had to be removed. What followed was months of uncertainty, chemotherapy, and radiation, followed by a nearly two year journey to have reconstructive surgery, twice, and recent cancer scares. And yet her sense of humor and dignity has remained intact.

Jackson, married since 1982 to Ralph Jackson, the former director of Habitat for Humanity in Lowndes County, has three children, sons Brandon, 27 and Jordan, 20, and daughter Madison, 14.

“Madison was only 8 or 9 when I was diagnosed in 2007, and she was very nervous that she was going to ‘catch’ it from me. She’s adopted and we’re her second family, so was fearful she was going to lose me too,” Jackson said.

While talking with Jackson, she sometimes appears to be at a loss for words, which she explains as “chemo brain,” a side effect of all the cancer medication that she likens to early onset Alzheimer’s.

“My brain didn’t come all the way back and I have issues with word recall, but I just work through it until I find another word that will work.”

She recounts a story of trying to write a check soon after her treatment and forgetting how to write the word “sixty.”

“I broke down. It was so embarrassing, but I’ve learned to work through it.”

Jackson had surgery in May 2007, started chemotherapy in June, and finished her radiation in December. She has to have blood work annually so her doctor’s can assess her cancer markers, and she had a recent cancer scare that led to a hysterectomy.

“I”ll always have to look over my shoulder, for the rest of my life,” she says, adding, “I tell people ‘Don’t fear cancer. Fear not doing something about it.’ The alternatives are so much worse.”

Jackson has beautiful, nearly waist- length blond hair that she typically keeps pinned up in a bun while at work at the Valdosta State University Public Administration office. She lost “every bit of it” during her treatments, including her eyebrows and her eyelashes, but wore a wig to keep “from looking like a Q-tip!”

“You don’t realize how great it feels to have hair until you don’t have it anymore!”

Jackson said when her hair grew back, it came back new, like “baby’s” hair, very fine and soft, and it even grows faster now. When asked it it came back different, she replies with a smile that it grew back darker than her natural blonde, but “there are tools to take care of that!”

Today she can feel the wind blowing through her luxurious tresses whenever she drives. Her church held a silent auction in 2010 and she bought a Volvo convertible.

“When I’m driving it, I feel alive. I love the wind gusting through my hair!”

As soon as she was declared cancer-free, she and husband Ralph left for England and France for two weeks to celebrate. Making definite plans following treatment is one of the things she counsels others to do to have something to work towards and to help keep their minds occupied during treatment.

Jackson has also served as an inspiration to others through her church and friends. She has a “cancer camisole” that she bought when undergoing treatments that helped hold all the tubes, etc. in place and the camisole has been passed among ladies at her church undergoing breast cancer treatment.

“It’s been through 6 or 7 of us so far, and every one of us has survived. You take every shred of hope that you can hang onto.”

Jackson also gives friends who are newly diagnosed a copy of the book, “Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Soul.”

“I cried when I read it, but you felt their joy and their pain, and every woman going through this should read it.”

Jackson is doing everything she can to help others, from raising money and participating annually in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, to running/walking the entire 60 miles of a Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk in Tampa, Fla. in 2008.

“I had a friend in Tampa with breast cancer and she didn’t make it, so I had her photo printed on a t-shirt and carried it with me for both of us.”

With no history of breast cancer in her family, Jackson said the disease is a silent one that can affect anyone, anytime.

“I had just had my annual checkup when I found the lump. It came on that fast. Even my surgeon, Dr. Dallas Miller, couldn’t believe I had breast cancer because I was not in any risk group for it.”

Jackson said she’s lucky, happy, and excited to be alive and healthy today, and advises breast cancer patients to have goals, listen to their doctors, but don’t listen to those with sad stories.

“When you’re going through breast cancer, the last thing you need are people coming up and telling you sad stories. You should hear positive things only. I would tell those people that the story they had was indeed very sad, and then I’d forget it and let it roll off me,” she said.

“Don’t let someone else’s horror invade you. Keep your positive attitude.”

 

1
Text Only
Local News
  • ARociewilliams_002.jpg Woman shares nearly a century of lessons

    With nearly 100 years of life under her belt, Ocie Viola Williams has plenty of advice to share with the world. Her top two pieces of advice: know the importance of education and don’t expect a teacher to raise your child for you. 

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • psst1 photo page copy.jpg PSST! finishes peachy season

    Peach State Summer Theatre concluded its 2014 season Sunday, a season which broke attendance records for the professional musical theatre company.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_2381.jpeg Award-winning young professionals share success secrets

    The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber’s MetroOne Young Professionals hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn to highlight successful business practices.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140726_summerlibrary002.jpg Library celebrates end of summer reading program

    With the first day of school just around the corner, students are soaking in the last few weeks of summer vacation. The end of summer also means the end of the South Georgia Regional Library’s 2014 summer reading program.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • artseason1 copy.jpg A sneak peek at some area arts organizations’ 2014-15 seasons

    Beethoven. Tennessee Williams. Non-stop art. Two versions of “The Wizard of Oz.” The 2014-15 arts season is coming.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • sabalmap.jpg Sabal Trail explains its position

    Representatives from Sabal Trail Transmission recently sat down with The Times to provide an update on the ongoing pipeline and potential economic development opportunities associated with the project.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514-MoodyComp007.jpg Moody AFB crews race in load competition

    Moody Air Force Base hosted a weapons load competition Friday morning, a maintenance group tradition in which two 23d Maintenance Group A-10 munition load crews raced against the clock to load munitions onto an A-10C Thunderbolt II.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • moonshine bust.jpg Police close illegal drinking house

    After receiving numerous complaints, the Valdosta Police Department shut down an illegal alcohol sales operation Friday.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • election.jpg Black earns most votes in runoff

    State Rep. Ellis Black led the votes for state Senate District 8 Friday with seven of seven counties reporting certified results, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140724-LAT1.jpg Little Actors Theatre ready for summer show

    Since 2004, the Little Actors Theatre has provided a place for children ages 6 to 19 to express themselves through acting.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results