Survivor: Ready to wear the pink ribbon

By Staff Sgt. Nichelle Anderson 11th Wing Public Affairs

Her story begins with doubt that she had any serious health issues. Brandi Jackson, a military spouse and mother of two who decided to schedule her annual "Well Woman" appointment at Malcolm Grow Medical Clinics and Surgery Center her for Sept. 14, 2012.

The decision to make the appointment came after growing concerns and question of when to expect her postpartum, post-nursing body to go back to normal. According to Jackson, during the appointment everything seemed to be checking out fine. The doctor conducted the physical as well as explained how long it truly takes for a woman's body to return to normal after childbirth. In following with routine procedures, the doctor also asked Jackson if she wanted a breast examination
"Of course, I never turn down this offer," said Jackson.

This time something was different; something was out of place. It was then that Jackson learned that there was a lump in her breast. In the following months she had multiple appointments at radiology in MGMC. But it was a month before she was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.

With the holiday season approaching, most celebrate with family and friends, and perhaps it is known as joyous time of year, but for Jackson and her family, things were a bit different.

"[It was] three days before Christmas and my world fell apart, my three year-old daughter and one-year-old son didn't understand why we couldn't travel to Maine to see Meme and the rest of the family for Christmas," Jackson explained.

"I was in complete shock, I believed nothing was going to be wrong, without a doubt - I am a healthy 33-year-old woman," she said.

Tears streamed down her face as she was overcome with shock and disbelief.

After a biopsy from the 3.5 centimeter tumor, she learned she had breast cancer. Shortly after being diagnosed, she was assigned to a Breast Care Team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. There she learned what treatments she'd be receiving to combat the cancer.

With her life quickly changing and not knowing what to expect in the upcoming months, Brandi turned to her family, friends, Mothers of Preschoolers, the Exceptional Family Member Program and the Chaplains for support.

Her family and friends came and showed their support by offering to watch her kids while she was at doctor's appointments, cooking dinner and even throwing a Hat Party where each guest provided a hat to wear while going through chemo treatments.

Her husband did what he could to support her too.

"I tried my best to take time off to go and sit with her during her treatments when I could," said Joint Base Andrews, Naval Air Facility Washington Aviation Warfare Systems Operator First Class Dave Jackson.

What kept her strong through the process was her faith in God and will to be strong for her two children, Ike and Elsie Jackson.

"We are a family who places our hope and faith in God," said Jackson. "When you're diagnosed with breast cancer, your world doesn't stop." "You have to keep going and that's what I did, I continued to live my life, I trusted that since God brought me to it, he'd get me through it."

Jackson underwent a variety of treatments including a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, physical therapy and hormone therapy treatments. She had four biopsies before proceeding with surgery to remove the tumor.

"I am ready to wear the pink ribbon because I am no longer in denial," Jackson said, "I am a survivor." "I am alive today because of their extensive training and expertise," she said. "It's been one year since my health began to spiral downward, I am alive today and will before many years."

Jackson applauds the team of doctors at WRNMMC for their professionalism and dedication in combating cancer. She stands tall less than a year after being diagnosed with cancer.
"If there's any advice I could give, if there's anything I want people to take away from my story it's, "'Take charge of your own health-- Check your boobies!' Set a reminder to do it once a month."