Jacque Ruddy

Three years ago I was sinking as I struggled to provide for my two sons that I was raising on my own. I realized that a college education was the only way to make a better life for my family. I was referred to an organization that provides resources to single parents pursuing higher education and immediately enrolled in community college. On July 12, 2011, three weeks into my first semester, I learned that I had breast cancer. My first thought was for my sons; who would raise them if I died. My next was how would stay in school and continue my educational goals. I had a mastectomy after the semester ended. I had well-meaning friends suggest I take a break from school, but I knew I had to continue and not let breast cancer get in my way. Two weeks after surgery I was back in school carrying 14 units. I then learned that chemotherapy was the recommended treatment. I scheduled my treatments around my classes. In spite of many challenges including blood clots, infections, neuropathy, fatigue and a total of five cancer related surgeries, I stayed in school and graduated from Orange Coast College (OCC) with honors. I am now at University of California, Irvine on a full scholarship and on track to graduation with my undergraduate degree in June 2015. Having breast cancer has opened my eyes to what serving my community is all about. My boys and I had so many people rally around us when I was sick. I was inspired to pay it forward and am an active volunteer with Susan G. Komen, OC serving on two committees and the speaker’s bureau. I am a guest speaker at OCC where I talk about the importance of early detection and teach methods of coping with and supporting a loved one going through treatment for breast cancer. I also mentor and advocate for women going through treatment for breast cancer through friend referrals. There are times that I become so driven that I forget to take time for self-care. I do not have the financial resources to “get away” and recollect myself. A vacation with my boys would be a blessing that would allow us to just be with each other without all the daily stressors. While the cancer has been removed from my body, I know recovery is a long process of the body and mind. Receiving the gift of Send Me On Vacation would set me and my family on the path to the next stage of recovery.