A familiar foe

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cancer is a familiar adversary for Catherine Jackson.

The dreaded disease has taken her grandmother, grandfather, mother and most recently, one of her best friends.

She knows it is only a matter of time before it raises its head again, but today she is going to fight it the only way she knows how — through perseverance and photography.

“I lost my mom at 19 to breast cancer,” said Jackson, a Florala resident and owner of Xquisite Images Photography. “She lost her mom and dad both to cancer and I know that because I have a history of cancer, it’s inevitable.

“And that’s scary,” she said. “Statistically, one of us three (sisters) will have it. It runs in the family.”

Jackson said during her teenage years, her mother, Glynis Smith, struggled with breast cancer before succumbing to the disease at 47.

“I’d have to say she fought four or five years — all through my upper teenage years,” she said. “It was very hard. We lived with my dad and stepmom, and I think that made it much harder. When I turned 18, that’s when it got really bad on her. My mom — we were all she had. It was left up to us to take care of her.”

Jackson said the sisters took turns caregiving, with the majority of the responsibility placed on her older sisters, Nicole Dukes-Crockett and Michele Martin.

“I worked at night, so I would come in and relieve them,” she said. “That’s how it went on for years. You know, you’re not supposed to be the one to take care of your mom. She’s supposed to take care of you, but it didn’t work out that way for us.”

A little more than a year ago, Jackson lost a good friend, 38-year-old Howard Williams, to pancreatic cancer.

“Howard had a strong will to live; he was so young,” she said. “There was no help for him. He was diagnosed at 37. Took chemo for eight months. That was just a year of his life, and he was so much more than that one year that he had cancer. He deserved to have more.”

After adding up the impact cancer has had on Jackson’s life, it is no wonder she decided to come up with a way to help fight the disease that has claimed so many in her life.

On Friday, Jackson and her assistant Crystal Birge will be on site at the annual Covington County Relay for Life event photographing the events, and the two plan to compile the photos on a CD. Those CDs will be pre-sold at the Relay event for $20. Half of the proceeds will go to benefit Relay; the other half will be used to cover production costs.

“There will be no profit made on this project,” she said. “I know what’s it’s like to love someone with cancer, to take care of someone with cancer and what it’s like to lose someone to cancer. I know the heartache and what the fight means. This project is a way for me to give back, to work to end that suffering.”

This will be Jackson’s first Relay event and she has big plans for the night.

“I’m a photographer, it’s what I do,” she said. “I love capturing people — their looks, their emotion. That night — there won’t be any posed pictures. I’m just going to take pictures of the good times, the emotional times and everything that goes on so people can see what goes on there and how touching that experience is.”

Order forms will be available at the Relay for Life event, set for Friday from 2 p.m. until 2 p.m. at the Kiwanis Fairgrounds. Opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m., with the survivor’s lap immediately following.