“ The best advice I can give is to just HELP – don’t say “let me know if you need something” because they never will. Just pitch in – a ride to the doctor, a home cooked meal, a movie night so they aren’t alone – whatever you can do to make their life a little more bearable.
Jaclyn Sabol is a mAss Kicker that is no stranger to the spotlight! She started out as a dancer with the Broadway national tour of “Contact.” She then joined the dance team for the NBA’s New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets. She quickly moved up the ladder and was a host of her own show, Jac of All Nets for the Nets website, and began hosting NBA Nation in the US. Soon she was traveling overseas to host events/perform interviews for the NBA in Asia! She started having severe headaches, nausea, and vomiting. To everyone’s surprise, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to readjust her personal goals! She is now an account director for Conde Nast in New York City and very active in brain tumor community. We were very fortunate to connect with her and ask her a few questions.
mK: Thanks for doing this Jaclyn! What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis?
JS: Anaplastic Astrocytoma (grade 3). I had been traveling back and forth to China for work (and traveling within the country of China quite a bit as well). All the time spent on the plane – especially the high altitude, long distance legs of the trip caused fluid to build up around the tumor (surprise!) Nine days after I got home from my final trip, I ended up in the ER with what I thought was a migraine (or catastrophic jet lag!). All it took was a CT scan and BAM – admitted to the hospital for the first time in my life, scheduled for surgery, and hooked up to a lot of morphine. It took 11 weeks and 4 pathology reports to determine what type of tumor it actually was. But ya know, I wasn’t stressed out or anything, so waiting was no big deal….(yea, that’s sarcasm).
mK: What were your symptoms?
JS: I woke up in the morning with a headache in the back of my head that felt like I got hit by a crowbar. It would get better by the evening, and then reappear the next morning. Eventually, I began to have nausea and vomiting, and couldn’t even hold down water – which is when I finally paid a visit to the ER. I went to see a doctor first and all she did was prescribe Vicodin. Um, I was throwing up WATER and she thought I could hold down Vicodin??
mK: Hee hee… right… Why did you get involved with advocacy?
JS: One of the hardest things about this journey was finding other young adult brain tumor survivors, and I can tell you that Google is NOT your friend when it comes to finding positive info related to survivorship. I somehow stumbled upon the National Brain Tumor Society, and was amazed at the amount of work they do to raise money for research and ultimately a cure. Thanks to my background in hosting and TV reporting, they asked me Emcee the 2nd annual NYC Brain Tumor Walk on Governor’s Island – and I was hooked. Meeting so many inspiring survivors, and their incredible friends and families, was life changing. This past year I sat on the planning committee for the walk, and continued my role as Emcee. I hope to play a role in the walk for many more years to come – I’ll do it as long as they’ll have me! Eventually I would like to take a trip with NBTS to Capitol Hill to advocate for Brain Tumor legislation and create necessary changes within our system that will allow research to happen faster and more efficiently, hopefully saving many lives in the process. I also participate with Stupid Cancer, a wonderful non-profit organization for young adult cancer survivors. I was honored to be asked to do an interview on their radio show a couple years ago. Basically, any time I can talk about my experience to help others I’m more than happy to do it.
mK: Who is your hero?
JS: My mom! No seriously. She died 6 ½ years ago from breast cancer and watching her fight as hard as she did, for as long as she did – seeing how much she valued life – was awe-inspiring. I tried to channel her spirit every day of my own battle, hoping for just an ounce of her strength and courage.
mK: Parents are great role models! What motivates you?
JS: My dog motivates me to get out of the bed in morning, cause he needs to be walked. My job also motivates me to stay sharp, think outside the box, and keeps me on my toes – that’s important for those of us who sometimes can’t remember the word “pen” (not sure if that’s brain tumor related or if I was like that before….) I’m also motivated by the amazing people in my life, the survivors that I’m lucky enough to meet along the way, and being able to advocate for change.
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
JS: Still working on it! Physically, probably 2 years or so. The radiation and chemo really kicked my ass, not to mention all the other meds, and the hours of time spent and blood given for the clinical trial I participated in at MSKCC in NYC (btw, they are incredible and I love them).
mK: Finding yourself really is an on going process… What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
JS: I laugh at myself all the time. I make brain tumor jokes (“I’ve never had a cavity in my life, but a brain tumor? Yup!!”) I cry when I see animals being hurt…I think there should be a law that people who abuse animals should be sentenced to the same punishment that they inflicted. Sickos. Lately, I’ve spent some time crying over the loss of a few brain tumor friends, and another who is battling hard but may not have much time left. Then I get angry – very angry. I fucking hate cancer.
mK: Right! What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
JS: I’ve been fortunate in my life to have some very interesting experiences. In college I was a back-up dancer for Britney Spears, I’ve been in a couple music videos and commercials, I’m in a movie on Netflix called “Gotta Dance”, and I was an NBA dancer for 4 years. I also got to be a sideline reporter and interview some really interesting people, like Jay-Z, Queen Latifah, and Kobe Bryant. I traveled the country as the first female Emcee for the NBA Nation tour. But I think what takes the cake, was traveling to China to be a judge, coach, and choreographer on a reality show called Dance Passion. 7 cities in 8 weeks – experience of a lifetime!
mK: Wow! Pretty cool! That’s “Crazy“… hee hee hee… What was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor? How did you overcome it?
JS: I didn’t have health insurance! I may have to write a book on how I overcame THAT obstacle. I also found it difficult the way people would look at me when they found out – like I might literally drop dead right in front of them. It was awful. So I used humor to deflect it back to them….I always knew that people meant well, so I tried to be as kind as possible while telling them that if they continued to look at me like that I was going to take off my wig and make it REALLY uncomfortable for them.
mK: Yeah! Some people don’t know how to act around patients! What is your guilty pleasure?
JS: Chocolate. The darker the better.
mK: HAHAHA! Chocolate seems to be a very common answer! Here’s another question for you… If you knew the world would end on 12/31/14, but you couldn’t tell anyone or the world would explode immediately, what would you do?
JS: I wouldn’t be doing this interview right now….I’d be in the Maldives with a cocktail, swimming with a dolphin.
mK: Right! What do you like to do in your spare time?
JS: Dance! I used to love to read, but I don’t seem to have much time for that….or much of an attention span anymore…..
mK: You ever try reading while dancing? It’s all about multitasking… j/k What are you up to now?
JS: I work full time in advertising, and though it was a tough adjustment, I love it now. My dog is awesome and makes me laugh every single day. Just got a new apartment after taking a break from my seven year relationship – life is short, you need to do what makes you happy. If you aren’t sure what makes you happy, take some time to figure it out.
mK: Dogs are AWESOME! Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
JS: Yes. Don’t listen to statistics. Don’t listen to people’s stories about someone they knew who had “the same thing and died”. Don’t worry about being polite. Understand that people do mean well, so don’t be afraid to let them know upfront that sometimes saying nothing at all is the best option. I’ve been in the unfortunate position of also being a loved one of someone battling cancer…sometimes I think that might actually be harder because it’s such a feeling of helplessness. The best advice I can give is to just HELP – don’t say “let me know if you need something” because they never will. Just pitch in – a ride to the doctor, a home cooked meal, a movie night so they aren’t alone – whatever you can do to make their life a little more bearable. AND DON’T TELL ME I HAVE THE RIGHT SHAPED HEAD TO PULL OFF BEING BALD. That’s just bullshit. And you know it.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
JS: I got my tongue pierced freshman year of college. I have NO idea why I thought that was a good idea. It barely lasted 8 months before I ripped that thing out.
Jaclyn Sabol: Dog lover, “crazy” dancer, chocolate fiend, person with the “perfectly shaped noggin”,”hole-ly” tongue bearer, and passionate brain tumor advocate! Thanks for hanging out with us! Can’t wait to see what you do next!