Dave Rothbart Feature writing

Who imagines their life at the age of 28, newly married and thinking about babies to suddenly be thinking about cancer and chemotherapy? Certainly not Jacquelyn Buckley but it happened, and it happened fast. Jacqui, as she is known to her family and friends, grew up in the small town of Munhall, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. I had quite the oh la la life growing up, Jacqui says, and I can honestly say I wouldn t have expected this to happen to me. She did all the things you would expect a young

woman like her to do. She graduated from college, with both a Bachelors and Masters Degree. She has a career that she loves as a counselor and is anxiously anticipating the day she can return to work. She married her soul-mate and they have traveled extensively together. We have been to 27 countries and 34 states, she adds enthusiastically. Nothing about Jacqui s illness has been ordinary, including her diagnosis. She was first referred to her oncologist, the same oncologist who treated her mother some 20 years ago, by her primary care physician. I really had no idea why I needed to see an oncologist, Jacqui recalls. She and her mother went to the appointment together and as they sat in the waiting area they joked about what might be wrong with her. As the time passed, she began to worry. Her appointment was at 2:30 why was this taking so long? Finally, at 3:30, they were called back to meet with the Doctor. He didn t do anything, no blood test, not even a scan. He simply examined her abdomen and said You have leukemia. We just don t if it is CML or AML. And you should pray to God it is CML. Jacqui and her mother sat in silence, in shock. All I could think was How am I going to work? Will I be able to have children? What if my

husband leaves me? Am I going to die? In the coming days, Jacqui learned that not only did she have AML, but also that she had a rare genetic chromosome called Five Q minus (5q-). Jacqui s fight has not been an easy one. Upon her diagnosis and initial work-up, she and her husband learned she was seven weeks pregnant; something Jacqui had wanted her entire life. She was faced with having a medically necessary termination of pregnancy or risking her own life by delaying treatment. This was extremely difficult for me, because all I ever wanted is to be a Mom, Jacqui says, but the Doctor said that I would most likely not live to see my baby if I didn t get treatment . I just couldn t bear the thought of bringing a baby into this world without a mother. Since then, she has endured several medications, including five different types of caustic chemotherapy, multiple spinal taps, and countless hospitalizations. On August 5, 2010, Jacqui underwent a stem cell transplant. Jacqui s father states, I used to admire Jacqui for her education, but know I admire her for her grace when facing her own mortality her own death. She has endured more pain than anyone ever should. She is my hero for life. Jacqui continues to visit the transplant clinic twice weekly, and her doctors continue to give her positive prognosis. Over the last 18 months Jacqui has fought many battles, but she is extremely grateful for her husband, family, friends, and community. I have never once felt alone in this journey. My community has set up fundraisers to help with medical bills. Everyone has really rallied together, she says. She has a tremendous support system in place. She has received hundreds of cards, well wishes, and is on more prayers lists than one can count. I feel so lucky. It really means a lot to me. Jacqui s fight with cancer has not only changed her perspective on life, but those closest to her as well. Lindsay Ropchock, Jacqui s friend since their college days at Indiana University of Pennsylvania says I ve always thought you should live your life to the fullest, but watching Jacqui go through this has strengthened that belief for me.

Jacqui s future is sure to be a very bright one, if her upbeat, cheery demeanor through this struggle is any indication. Although doctors tell her she is in remission, Buckley finds herself cautiously optimistic stating, I was in remission for 57 days last year. I hope this time is forever. When asked about how her diagnosis changed her perspective on life, Jacqui states, Anyone can give up; it s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that s true strength.

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