Los Angeles Sparks forward Tiffany Jackson-Jones is mostly known for her basketball prowess, but she’s also known for beating breast cancer. She decided when she was diagnosed with the disease that she wanted to be a role model for strength.
“I wanted to be an example to everyone, to survivors, to people who are going through the disease, not just basketball players,” she said. “If I can go back and play basketball, you can go back to your life where you’re having fun with your kids, your family, travelling, or whatever it is that you love to do.”
Basketball and her son, Marley, are two things that helped her get through it. She wanted Marley to grow up with his Mom and she had business to take care of on the court.
“There’s days when you just don’t feel like you can get out of bed, you feel icky and nasty and you don’t want to do anything,” she said. “Those were the days that I made sure that I got up and I went and played basketball.”
For a lot of people on a good day, convincing themselves to get up and go to the gym is a feat in itself, but Jackson-Jones practiced and trained throughout her chemotherapy treatment. She told her trainer to call her everyday if she didn’t call him first. Jackson-Jones did allow herself time to heal after she had the mastectomy, so she took it easy and forewent training and practicing during that time.
Tuesday’s game featured the Sparks against the San Antonio Stars and was the Sparks’ Breast Health Awareness Day, something that hits home for Jackson-Jones. She spends a lot of time speaking at colleges and schools educating young women on the disease, what to look for and where to look for it. She preaches early detection and being proactive, because it can happen at any age.
“Especially in the African-American community and the Latino community, we’re dying at a higher rate and it’s not because it affects us any differently, it’s because we’re finding it a lot later,” she said.
She explained that the earlier it is detected, the easier it is to treat. She never thought that the lump she felt in her breast would be cancer.
Jackson-Jones is no ordinary woman, but the fact that she put off going to the doctor is very commonplace. She felt the lump on her breast when she was playing overseas in 2015 and thought nothing of it: she was young and extremely fit. Jackson-Jones didn’t get it checked until she came back to Tulsa for the WNBA season and it began to become sore and bothersome.
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“It changed my whole outlook on life knowing that one minute you’re thinking everything is fine, but everything can change with one doctor visit, an hour of your time,” she said. “I live, I never take days off if I have basketball, I give everything all the time.”