‘Luck of the draw’ saves PIH leader’s life

TROY — It literally was the luck of the draw that saved Carol Jackson’s life.

Jackson, a resident of Troy and the executive director of Partners in Hope for a year and a half, recently celebrated a clean bill of health after a year-long battle with breast cancer.

If it hadn’t been her business card that was drawn at the grand opening of Kettering Troy Hospital in July 2019, Jackson’s breast cancer may not have been discovered until much later.

“I don’t even remember doing that, but I do it all the time and I never win anything,” Jackson said with a laugh.

Jackson’s business card was selected to receive an executive physical, a full day of testing done — including a mammogram, at the hospital.

“I signed up for it because I was behind on everything. It’s kind of one of those things that was like, ‘I don’t know when you start worrying about that kind of stuff’ and I hadn’t gotten to that point yet. So I was like sure, why not, there’s no cost to me and I might as well take advantage of this free gift,” she said. “They treat you like a princess — they do it all at once. You aren’t lost because they have a nurse escort you through the day and explain each test to you. It was wonderful.”

It was that day of testing, which Jackson said she would have never done on her own account, that saved her life. On the mammogram, a spot was detected, which led to another ultrasound, which detected two more areas of cancer and then a biopsy.

Doctors diagnosed Jackson with breast cancer in September 2019, but it was caught in its early stage.

“There’s no family history and they told me that I wouldn’t have been able to detect by self-examination because it was way down deep,” Jackson said. “All the medical people on my team, even now, they said I would have never had found it — and it was growing. Every test was growing.”

A year of treatment didn’t stop Jackson from serving the community at Partners in Hope.

Partners in Hope Education and Development Coordinator Sonia Holycross said it was Jackson’s strength and leadership through her treatment that inspires her at the nonprofit organization. Holycross shared how Jackson took on the director’s role in April 2019, which led her to attend the opening of the hospital and then saved her life. Watching the leader of the organization battle cancer, like coming into the office after chemo treatments and dealing with side effects of the treatments, while continuing to serve the community, was inspiring to Holycross.

“Nothing was going to be an excuse to why she couldn’t perform her duties here. that’s amazing to me … to watch her character as she battled this and to realize there were times she was in genuine pain. But she had shown us that control, that’s what a great leader should have … not everybody wins cancer, but this is a celebration because this woman has taught me so much without speaking a word and that’s what Partners In Hope stands for.”

Holycross, staff, and the Pink Ribbon Girls decorated the Race Street office in pink in celebration of Jackson’s successful treatment.

Jackson, the mother of two adult children and two grandchildren, credits her team of doctors and “the luck of the draw” of the Kettering Health Network executive physical for saving her life. Jackson said her team at Partners in Hope and its board helped her through the treatment process and the organization’s mission to serve others kept her focused through the treatments..

“We try to always keep our eye on the goal to support our community the best we can through our faith, no matter what their faith is, to help anyone that comes through our door,” Jackson said.

Jackson had one slice of advice to give regarding that divine intervention with winning the physical, and knowing that life gets busy as a wife, mother, grandmother and leader in the community.

“Don’t skip your well care tests,” she said.