[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen the world seems to come to a standstill with the delivery of rough news, you can do one of three things: let it define you, let it destroy you or let it strengthen you. Jackie Velasco chose the latter and has decided to celebrate overcoming her battle with cancer by knocking things off what she calls her “life list.”
Special thanks to
Jack Allen with Cupio Media
“I don’t even recognize myself,” said Jackie Velasco, after looking at her reflection in the mirror inside Jennifer Robison’s photography studio. Makeup artist Carol Hines just finished applying her makeup for the fashion shoot and her nerves now seemed calmer than when she first entered the studio. She was ready to scratch ‘modeling’ off her bucket list, or as she calls it, her life list.
Velasco, of Shreveport, was a busy stay-at-home mom and wife who spent her spare time watching football games and assisting her husband, Ernie, with his job as the painter for Evangel Christian Academy’s football field. Her youngest daughter graduated high school the year before and Velasco was prepared to start focusing on herself. She was even considering going back to college to complete her degree in psychology. But she started to feel sick and her symptoms lead her to the doctor’s office.
“It was like a whirlwind,” she said.
In March 2015, Velasco was diagnosed at age 49 with stage-two breast cancer. When she discovered it was stage-two, she initially thought the prognosis would be good, however, she had an aggressive form of cancer called HER2+. Treatment began with radiation, chemotherapy and a new therapy drug called Herceptin, which Velasco credits with saving her life. In addition to treatment, she underwent two lumpectomies.
Velasco said her greatest support was her husband who went with her to almost all of her chemotherapy appointments. Over the course of treatment, Velasco lost her hair but her radiant smile never faltered.
“My life has been a constant adjustment in the year I’ve had cancer,” she said. “My body’s different. My face is different. Everything’s different.”
Instead of losing faith, she began to create her life list and the goals that she always wanted to achieve.
“I’ve just had these random, neat things come about from something bad,” she said. “I’ve been doing a lot of the things on my life list.”
She worked as an extra for a movie. She attended a Greenbay Packers game in Greenbay, Wis. She met cast members from the reality show Survivor. She finally went to Destin, Fla. And now she is modeling for a fashion spread.
“I’ve never been tall, but when I was younger, I was slightly more attractive and people used to tell me I should be a model,” Velasco said. “But I never did because of my height, and I couldn’t afford it.”
Today, Velasco is on her way to making a full recovery. She must continue taking a pill for the next five years, and she will have genetic testing done to assess her three daughters’ risk of getting breast cancer.
Although Velasco never worked as a runway model or reigned as a pageant queen, her beauty is unchanging. It’s in her family. It’s in her outlook on life. It’s in her bravery.