12 years ago, Ginette Jackson got the news no one ever wants to hear: you have breast cancer. But today, now 69 and a grandmother to three, she is thriving and sharing one message to everyone: there is life after cancer.
Originally from Haiti, Jackson moved to South Florida in her early 20s, where she raised two children and had a long career as a clerk for the Miami-Dade County Court Records.
When she was 57, Jackson underwent a routine mammogram – only to find out she had a suspicious lump. After an ultrasound and biopsy, Jackson was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
“It was hard to accept,” recalled Jackson of when she was diagnosed. “I ate right, exercised, doing what I was told to do. I didn’t want to tell people, to have them worry.”
Jackson underwent a mastectomy and lymphectomy at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. It was only after the surgeries did she tell her family and friends of her cancer diagnosis.
Following surgery, Jackson underwent six months of chemotherapy. In addition to feeling sick and experiencing the numerous side effects, chemotherapy also forced Jackson to take a break from her beloved line dancing – a hobby she grew to love.
However, just one month after completing chemo, Jackson stepped back onto the dance floor – a pivotal moment during recovery that she will never forget.
“When I went back to dancing, I felt more love from [fellow dancers],” she said. “Before, people would usually say, ‘hi,’ but now they see me and are hugging me. They were hugging me like they actually missed me.”
Although she doesn’t line dance as often nowadays, she still loves to exercise and do the steps she learned over the years.
Today, Jackson is a familiar face at SISTAAH Talk, a breast cancer support group for women of color where she is also a coach.
“SISTAAH” is an acronym for Survivors Involving Supporters to Take Action in Advancing Health. Its goal is “to provide a forum for African American women to communicate about and make sense of their breast cancer experience in order to achieve improved physical and mental health outcomes.”
As a coach with SISTAAH Talk, Jackson helps other members of the group navigate the various programs, events and resources available to those diagnosed with breast cancer. To become a coach, she completed an 18-hour training course on breast cancer-related topics.
Jackson said she became a Susan G. Komen Warrior to help other women diagnosed with breast cancer find strength and support.
“When you hear the word ‘cancer,’ you can get through it because I did it,” she said. “There is a short time you feel bad, but this too shall pass. It will be temporary.”