When I got my diagnosis—Stage 3b Ductal Something-Something Breast Cancer
Malignant Something—a couple of things flashed across my mind: how soothing the charming southern drawl of the woman on the phone telling me the news was (they must teach a course in that—telling people bad news in a comforting way—she gets an A), and the jolt of reality that abruptly ends your fairytale life.
Nothing too terrible had happened to me yet. Always an optimist, I could think my way out of any bad situation. I have no money? I’ll get three jobs. I’m lonely? I’ll find a husband. I want to be an actress? I’ll move to Los Angeles and find out how to get a role. I bite my nails? Buy some fake ones! I could always come up with a solution. But this problem had me stumped.
Cut the cancer out immediately was a good start. Ask the experts what to do next? Check. Oh yeah, PRAY. Doh. Why do I always think of that last?! Oh, and I might be dying soon. Well, Philippians 1:21 flew into my head, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Whew. Win/win. I’d heard, read, and memorized that verse my whole life. Now I get to live it. Okay. What will that look like? Well, Jesus has my soul so I have nothing to be blue about. I don’t like being blue. Bubble gum helps. Chardonnay used to help, but I see on the Internet that some believe alcohol causes breast cancer and sugar feeds cancer. Uh oh. I have to quit sugar?!
The next verses that came into my mind were Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” and Isaiah 61:3, “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” So I decided that dying would be a great opportunity to write a book. Cancer and death are what everyone is afraid of. Maybe my Saturday Night Live connection mixed with the word cancer would bring people to read my story and then hear the gospel. Hallelujah!
The gospel is my story. It is the reason I have been an optimist since age six when I
learned to read and realized that the preacher was not just talking to the congregation when he quoted John 3:16, but that God, Jehovah, Creator of the Universe was speaking to me, Vicki, as a unique individual. He created no two people alike and He was giving each of us the opportunity to love Him back, personally. I knelt by my bed with my Baptist deacon/ex-vaudevillian/gymnastic coach dad and asked Jesus into my heart. I thanked Jesus for dying for my sins, although I could only think of two at the time (I was six), and I have followed Jesus ever since.
Show business is a difficult place to be a Christian. I turned down a lot of roles, did some I should have turned down, and omitted bad words from my scripts. I was many times the only Christian on the set, but I felt like God led me there and I tried to be an example of professionalism and of His love at all my job opportunities.
As I say in my new book, Lavender Hair: 21 Devotionals for Women with Breast Cancer, cancer doesn’t make all your other problems go away; it just shuffles them around and cancer lands at the top of the list. It is urgent and serious and life threatening. I tried to lighten up the situation by wearing various wigs to all my chemo visits and checkups—purple, pink, Raggedy Ann, and Pippy Longstocking were some of my favorites.
The medical staff at Vanderbilt Breast Clinic were kind and loving—I basked in their
genuine care. And I walked with God. Rather, He carried me and my husband through the ordeal—double mastectomy, five months of chemo, thirty-three sessions of radiation, followed by an anti-estrogen pill for the next five years. Through it all my feet weren’t touching the ground. I was metaphorically weak in the knees, so He carried me.
Today I am cancer-free and I feel great. I’ve changed my lifestyle into a healthy one with lots of fruits and vegetables, and I’m closer to Jesus than I’ve ever been. He is more real to me than at any other time in my life. I sang the song “Victor’s Crown” with Darlene Zschech on my iPhone during my walk today around the neighborhood and lifted up my arms to the sky to praise God. I almost wasn’t even afraid if anyone was looking.
VICTORIA JACKSON is the author of Lavender Hair and is best known for her six seasons (1986-1992) on Saturday Night Live. She has also appeared in many films. Victoria was raised in a Bible- believing, piano-playing home with no TV. While at college on a gymnastics scholarship, Victoria discovered drama. Johnny Carson’s talent scout saw her six-minute stand-up comedy act and put her on the Tonight Show where she appeared over twenty times. In 1992, Victoria was reunited with her high school sweetheart, Paul Wessel, and left show business to raise a family in the suburbs of Miami. Victoria still performs stand-up comedy and appears in an occasional film. She and her husband now reside in Nashville, Tennessee, to be near their daughters and
Lavender Hair is available now for purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/Lavender-Hair-Devotions-Breast-Cancer/dp/1424555620.
To celebrate the launch of the book, Victoria is performing her stand-up routine and singing her new song live at Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville on October 8. Purchase tickets here! and donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation here.