I have made a commitment to myself and to my children that nothing will stop me from earning a degree that will ultimately lead me to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I will be in a position to end our cycle of poverty and bring financial stability to our lives. Further, I will have the education and training to pursue my passion of being in a helping career.
I have had to remember my commitment through numerous extreme challenges since my return to college in 2011. I was a single mom to two boys, struggling with poverty and domestic abuse, and re-learning how to be a student. Then, on my son’s second birthday, I was diagnosed with invasive ductile carcinoma – I had breast cancer. I stayed in school through a mastectomy, numerous follow-up surgeries, and several rounds of aggressive chemotherapy. During chemotherapy, I would suffer from nausea, fatigue, blood clots and infections. In spite of these side effects and other challenges, I continued with my studies. I earned Dean’s List for my top grades and graduated, with honors, from Orange Coast College with an AA in Psychology in 2013.
I was accepted into the Psychology and Social Behavior program at University of California, Irvine. With my focus on community service, I added a minor in Civic and Community Engagement. I maintained a strong GPA through additional hardships during my three years at UCI. During my first year at UCI, my son was kidnapped during a visit with his father. I had to attend more than 20 Family Law Court hearings to address his repeated failures to return our son from visits and his contempt of court in failing to pay child support for two years. Additionally, I had to undergo several more breast cancer related surgeries. I stayed the course of my studies at UCI through these extreme challenges, and even earned Dean’s List several quarters while volunteering as coach and team parent for my boys’ sports teams and as a breast cancer advocate/speaker in my community.
On September 22, 2015, two days before the Fall Quarter began at UCI, I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. I was shocked and scared but I dug my heels in and held onto my commitment that nothing would stop me from my academic and career goals. I began classes with my peers and continued with my full-time class schedule. This battle with recurrent breast cancer included three surgeries, four rounds of chemotherapy, and five weeks of daily radiation. Although it was suggested, I never considered taking a medical leave. I knew it would not be easy, but I had successfully battled breast cancer while maintaining my focus on college studies before. I would do it again.
I have learned that even though my financial resources are limited and I am experiencing health challenges, I am still able to serve others in my community. Shortly after my first breast cancer diagnosis, I began speaking to lecture classes at Orange Coast College about breast health, advocacy, and early detection of breast cancer. I have continued as a guest speaker every semester since 2011. I have been able to reach hundreds of students each semester through these speaking engagements. I was recently honored to be invited by Dr. Ilona Yim, at University of California, Irvine, to guest speak in her Health Psychology class with this topic. Over the past five years, I have had the privilege of supporting numerous women through their battle with breast cancer. I walk with them through the steps of their journey and provide resources, information, and a shoulder to cry on. In recognition of my passion and commitment to educate and raise awareness about breast cancer, I received the 2016 Promise of One Award from the National Office of Susan G. Komen.
On June 10, 2016, I became the first in my immediate and extended family to earn a bachelor’s degree. I am working diligently to pave the way for my sons, Caden (13) and Liam (7), to follow me. My parents were basically absent from my upbringing. To give my boys a better life, I am involved with their school and often volunteer as room parent and for classroom activities (baking cookies, driving to field trips). I am there to cheer them on in sports and am the team parent for all of their sports teams (soccer and baseball) each season. I even coached Liam’s first season of soccer!
Stripes – “We are grateful for what we have learned from our friend and Warrior Jacqueline. We are happy to know her and have been able to help her through part of her journey. Thank you to our donors and followers for helping FIGHT cancer financially.”