From a Researcher to a Patient to a Champion for a Cause

05/16/2012

During the day, postdoctoral fellow Jacquelyn Roth, Ph.D., can be found in the Abramson Pediatric Research Center, conducting laboratory research on brain tumors and working toward her board certification in clinical cancer cytogenetics.

Her work on cancer genetics at Children’s Hospital, as part of the team led by Jackie Biegel, Ph.D., is an extension of the research she did while in the doctoral program in Genetics at Thomas Jefferson University. While at Jefferson, Jackie studied cancer, particularly looking for new genes involved in breast cancer.

Then, in 2010 at the young age of 28, “Little Jackie,” as she has come to be called in Dr. Biegel’s group, went from being the researcher to being the patient. She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I never thought I would be fighting breast cancer in two ways at once,” she said.

But fight she did, through rounds of chemotherapy and radiation and the first of several surgeries to come. She now shares her spirit, knowledge, and insight helping others understand and handle the emotional and physical toll that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis – in essence, to help them become a “survivor” like her.

Jackie said that she pursued volunteer organizations after her diagnosis to connect with people in similar circumstances and share her story. With her background in research, she also hoped to bring her unique perspective and knowledge to the groups, get and give support, and find a way to become involved.

She ultimately became involved with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and caught the attention of the Philadelphia Affiliate CEO Elaine Grobman. Jackie said she stood out as the youngest at a breast cancer support meeting and was actively in treatment at the time.

Grobman subsequently asked Jackie to speak at the Race for the Cure Kickoff Party as the Survivor Speaker, which was held in February. For this event, Jackie filmed a video running through the Italian Market and up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum to the chants of “Little Rocky!”

“I knew that sharing my story would be healing, and I hoped in the process I could not only make other women aware of the disease, especially young women, but I hoped to show them that they are not alone.” Jackie said in her speech for the Komen Race for the Cure kick-off event.

In addition, Jackie recently attended the Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer, for whish she wrote a welcome letter and served as the “face” of the event. And this fall she will be one of three survivors honored at the “Butterfly Ball,” the annual fundraiser for the organization Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

“I know that I’ve gained an appreciation for things that I just never understood before. I don’t sweat the small stuff, it just seems like a waste of time now,” she said. “Along this journey, I’ve gained independence and I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.”