LaKesha Jackson is a living testament to the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In her case, pink lemonade would be more accurate.
Jackson was only 31 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A month later, in March 2011, she underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, followed by chemo and radiation. “Losing my hair was the most traumatic part for me,” says Jackson. “Once the hair came out, I felt like a cancer patient… I cried every day for months.”
But it wasn’t long before she began transforming her illness into action. In June 2011, Jackson and her friend Ganesa Taylor started a non-profit organization called Pink S.H.O.E.S. Inc., whose moniker stands for Strength, Hope, Optimism, Endurance, Survival. “I’m an example that a young, healthy, vibrant woman can still get breast cancer,” says Jackson, now 33. “I decided to make my ‘mess my message’.”
The mission of Pink S.H.O.E.S. is to spread awareness that women 40 and under do get breast cancer, and to educate young women about early detection. In addition to monthly support meetings, the group raises money to buy pink roses and custom wigs for patients.
Today, Jackson loves her short buzz cut. “I embrace it! I am proud to be a breast cancer survivor. My life will never be the same, but it is a gift that I am forever grateful for.”