Student overcomes brain cancer

Madison Martin | Broadcast Reporter

On Jan. 26th, 2006, Jackie Black hit her head on a tree, saving her life. Though at the time this seemed like a small accident, Black would never be the same.

Fearing her daughter had a concussion, Barbara Canales, Brown’s mother, took her to see a pediatrician. Rather than a concussion, her CAT scan revealed an anaplastic astrocytoma, a severe malignant brain tumor the size of an orange growing on the left side of Jackie’s brain. It was a rare form of brain cancer with no known cure and very low survival rate.

“If it wasn’t for that tree, I wouldn’t be alive today,” Black said.

With extensive surgery, radiation treatment and chemotherapy, Jackie overcame the odds and was officially declared cancer-free at 13 years old.

Even at a young age, Jackie acknowledged that there were children who shared the same struggles as she did, inspiring her and her mother to create the Ready or Not Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting pediatric brain cancer research. Now Jackie continues to use her story as a catalyst to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer treatment.

“I make speeches every year in front of about 500 people for my foundation, and that’s when I tell myself to think of the others, to not feel bad for myself as if I’m suffering the most, when there is always someone in a worse state,” Black said.

Although the tumor was successfully removed, it left longterm remnants of memory loss, PTSD and epileptic seizures. Looking at Jackie, you’d never imagine the neurological journey she’s battled almost all her life as she continues to not only survive but thrive everyday.

“At nine years old I became a survivor but then seizures started to occur my junior year of high school,” Black said.

After extensive treatment and being cleared as cancer free, it wasn’t long before Black showed signs of new neurological health issues.

“Her oncologist said you don’t have to come anymore to get the MRI for the cancer, you have to get the MRI’s for the epilepsy, which is a result from the radiation,” Canales said. “So, the very thing that saved her life, many years later caused secondary neurological impact.”

Though she still lives with the nuisance of cancer’s effects, Jackie’s spirit carries her to continue her passion for art and achieve her dreams of earning her degree. She is a valiant and compassionate crusader, encouraging people to continue growing just as the miracle tree did that saved her life.

“It matters to her, even if she forgets everything. Education is not about what we can regurgitate,” Canales said. “It’s about at least for a moment a teacher is telling her something she feels enriched.”