I’ve looked at this photo A LOT this week. It was taken less than a month after Jackie’s brain tumor was discovered. Things were moving fast and there was a tremendously scary path in front of her. I know I personally would have been curled up in a ball. But that wasn’t Jackie.
To prep for her brain surgery a week later, she decided to cut her hair. She didn’t have to – her surgery was on the top front of her head, so she could have let the nurses shave off only what was necessary. But again, that wasn’t Jackie.
She invited sixty of her closest friends to come to a hair cutting party, and we all cheered and laughed and smiled and tried not to cry as we watched her transform into another version of herself – a version more strong and beautiful than I ever could have imagined.
When I see this photo, I don’t see her transitioning into “Sick Jackie,” (as she once described it to me), but instead the emergence of an amazing, strong, kickass woman who wasn’t going to let terrible circumstance dictate the way she was going to live. And for the rest of her life, she never did. She traveled, she drank champagne, she laughed, she hugged, she experienced.
For those of us who knew her before she was diagnosed, we weren’t surprised, because Jackie was always one of the good ones (one of the BEST ones). She was always there for her friends with a laugh, or tissues, or a VHS, or the answers to a homework assignment. Cancer didn’t change her. Her thoughts and worries were for the ones she loved, always.
Today Jackie would have turned 38. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about her, but days like today are when the hurt is a little sharper. I can imagine EXACTLY what texts we would have exchanged this week. She would also be SO annoyed that I just wrote six paragraphs about her because she didn’t want to be an inspiration, she just wanted to be alive.
Happy birthday to awe-inspiring Jackie. To paraphrase Alexander Hamilton, you are the best of friends and best of women.