Thriving after two Cancers
Gina Jackson, meditation Teacher and emerging eco-friendly clothing designer
I am sharing my story during Corona Virus, a time of so much uncertainty. I sit in my living room over a Zoom video call, and I can state with certainty that I know I am okay, that I will be okay. The journey on the yellow brick road is never a straight line, no matter how much I want to cheerleader it. Yep, been cheerleading my way through life since I was in 7th grade. The positive psychology approach is important, but I have found that a combination of attitude and authenticity wins the game every time.
My name is Gina Jackson and I am Kintsugi
Years ago, I was enthralled with the retail field, working hard like an Energizer bunny! I have worked and managed the biggest and best in the business, but my favorite is the Japanese shop. I am Japanese and I adore the fabric and cultural aspects of Japan. I was dressing women professionally and teaching mindfulness. In one of my classes, I started bleeding. Oh No! I didn’t feel anything, but the embarrassment and the fear of the unknown…
This wasn't the first time that I bled. I had been looking for answers to the pain, the bleeding, and the feeling that something was not right with me. Some doctors said it was pre-menopause, but I knew it was not. Most others wanted to prescribe Prozac, an anti-depressant. They all said I would feel better. I’m not a pill-popping ‘kinda’ patient. I needed to understand what I had. I was listening to my gut feeling and the Dr. Oz show on this day…I discovered the problem myself, now it was time to be heard.
The Crappy News: Genetically-Based, Uterine Cancer
My husband took me to the doctor, after being called directly. Cancer found. They also explained we needed to go into surgery immediately, because it is a fast-spreading cancer. Behind the uterus is the colon. If the cancer reaches the colon, it will be hard to treat. So, my care was aggressive.
(Side Note: Please do not delay. If you feel in your gut something is wrong, please check it out and start treatment. It is a matter of life and death. The earlier you take care of your body, the better your chances of survival. It is simple as that.) “Prevention is the new Cure”- Gina says.
This was the first realization that I better have some good internal resources. This was going to be a hard journey. I knew I had my loving mom and husband, both so attentive, I would need them and more. I would need my whole self to tackle the changes ahead.
When the uterus, cervix, all tubes, and all-female organs are removed, you experience surgical menopause. I had no estrogen. Due to the cancer, I could not get hormonal replacement. Seriously, mid-forties, now behaving like I’m in my 60’s!
Why me? Why not me? Why should I be immune?
I understand that time is needed to mourn the losses we face and the hard changes we embark on when the body temple is not working right. I also know that if I were to stay in a state of suffering for too long, then the potential to fall into a vortex of sadness and malaise would only compound my cancer journey and the reality that not only do I need to move through two cancers, two surgeries, two after care programs, but I am now thrown into a post-menopause state, with no estrogen. What! Where the hell has my estrogen gone!?
I already had the resources inside of me, heck I teach this stuff, right? Hardship is temporary in nature, and resilience is a muscle we can build. I was fully prepared to take my mindfulness meditation practice to a whole different level. I want to help myself and be there for the women who want to be inspired while traveling on the yellow brick road of their very own “Hero’s Journey”
When we realize that being a victim of anything, is a choice, even if we have been victimized,
we get a dose of super strength to march on and confront the Bully of hardship head-on.
So, the work began. On the hunt for a good functional medicine doctor, an integrative specialist, my oncology team, MD’s and more. I was going to tackle this challenge, and thrive through it, not just survive it.
I had to change my dietary habits: take sugar out of my diet, increase certain nutrients, I had to function without a uterus, cervix, tubes, and the oh, so fun partial mastectomy with node removal…still numb and bruised till this day. It took a lot of time to navigate how to stabilize my hormones through food, thoughts, gentle exercise, and so much more. I must emphasize that food is medicine.
Mind, Body, and Spirit
This was my integrative and holistic approach to healing. I found three ways to create this path. I focused on my mind, my body, and my spirit. One of my doctors said…Gina, Can you wrap your brain around a “new normal, instead of trying to get something back” my ego was shocked and I wanted to retort but she was right. I cried in her office that day.
Mind: I started and ended my day with a dose of meditation. I had to reprogram my brain for moments of joy, not loss. I focused on gratitude, instead of “why me” I bought a beautiful journal and kept it bedside. I still use it today.
Body: I had to permit myself to heal. I had to stop and slow down, I had to change the way I lived my life and operated. At least for a while. It was time to feed my body properly and rest as needed.
Due to the lack of hormones, I started getting arthritis and musculoskeletal issues. I can’t do the same yoga poses I used to do; I would make modifications. I would rest in a state of grace or press my spine firmly on the ground for a few minutes, something I could do easily while increasing strength in other ways. I would continue practicing yoga in a different way along with Pilates. I would walk in nature and stretch. Shinrin Yoku is the way.
Spirit: I worked hard on my personal connection with myself and my higher power. I did a lot of reading and practicing being okay with taking time to connect to something bigger than the material world. The gateway is meditation.
The New Normal after Trauma
I grew up with a lot of material stuff and beautiful possessions. Now, I wanted to pare it down and make real connections with people, nature, and time. Now, these are more important for me.
2016: The Second Genetic Cancer
This time, the cancer was in my right breast. I had a partial mastectomy and a lot of radiation. chemo was not in the cards for me, I would have declined it anyway. The marks and scars of surgery and radiation are there to remind me, that prevention is key. Once again, I tapped into my mind, body, and spirit practices to thrive in my new world.
Through the second cancer, I was able to realize, “Gina! You have something special here!” During this time of suffering, I was able to recognize and call upon my experience in women’s retail. So, I started to journal how to create something around women’s bodies changing after cancer and menopause and my love for dressing women in boutique management. Lightbulb!
I couldn’t wear so many things, due to the pain from radiation and body changes. My needs had changed as well. Dressing modestly became more appealing to me. Instead of feeling sexy, I felt sensual. I decided to start a brand that would be based on clothing that would appeal to others both in looks and the feel, created for women who had suffered from cancer, skin sensitivities, among other things, but still want to look and feel amazing. It is a mission-based practice and business. Similar to Mikah, I teach healing and provide clothing that fits the needs of those I help on this journey.
My Search Continues
I embarked on a mission to find out more about the genetics in order to protect myself from Lynch Syndrome Disease. This type of cancer appears in the breast, uterus, and colon. I had already experienced two of the three types within five years; I want to avoid the third.
I had lost my brother at 29 years old to colon cancer. My mother had colon cancer along with breast cancer. My Japanese grandmother died from colon cancer. I needed to learn more, I wanted to break the dis-ease cycle.
Family Secrets & DNA
Many things are revealed with DNA testing these days… it was discovered that my dad, the one who raised me and loved me, was not my biological dad. Over a late-night chat and tea one night, my mom broke down and shared the truth. I felt like a ground swell under my feet. I believed something for five decades that was not true. Again, turning to mind, body, spirit practices as my mother and I move through this new information. Still on the yellow brick road…
My dad had passed away, and I would never be able to discuss this with him. Now, I was on a new journey to find my biological dad so I could learn more about my medical history and new cultural roots for the first time. Time to learn Italian. Bella, Bella!
Ultimately, the anger, fear, confusion, and the betrayed feelings passed. I was able to put myself in the space of my precious mom, and I thought long and hard about her and the social stigma of the time this all had happened. “If I was a young woman, how would I act? at a time that being pregnant out of wedlock was not socially accepted?” my mom is brave, like so many.
My mom and dad fell in love and my dad took me on as his very own, how amazing for me. In the late 60s, this was not common. When I did a roleplay practice, I was able to accept her choices and forgive her. When you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes that you think you should be pissed off at, you realize that they did the best they could with the resources they had at the time. I am loved, I have a mom, I am blessed. Amen.
The Last Five Years
Within the last five years, I had to battle two cancers and go through a genetic journey that led me to find out that my father was not my biological dad. We had a business collapse. Then, last year my husband had a near-crippling bedridden dive accident, that took a year to recover from. Now, the world deals with uncertainty as we shelter in place, during Corvid-19. Here we go again, mind, body, spirit resilience training.
But I am still here, feeling strong, knowing it is all going to be okay because I know the wisest answers are discoverable from within. I am grateful, I have the resilience tools I need to overcome moments of adversity. It may be a 90-second breathing exercise, journaling, or reaching out to a friend or a loved one, I know that I am worthy, whole, and perfect just the way I am.
My name is Gina and I am Kintsugi.
Your loving comments are much appreciated!