When Jodi-Ann Blackwood Maxwell’s 27-year-old mother died of cancer when she was nine, she said life was tough.
But the experience of growing up without her mother fuels her own battle with the dreaded disease.
“I don’t allow my kids to be motherless because I know what it’s like, so I decided I’m going to fight,” said the mother of three.
Already a mother of a 10-year-old son, Blackwood Maxwell was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31, six months after giving birth to twin boys in 2019.
De Spaldings, from Clarendon, who chose to get tested after feeling a lump in her armpit in 2017, said she was convinced by three different doctors that it was benign and not a cause for concern.
However, the lump got bigger when she became pregnant two years later. Again she was told that the lump was no cause for alarm.
But Blackwood Maxwell said she was alarmed after she noticed blood in her breast milk. The findings of a mammogram brought the terrible news: She had stage four breast cancer, which had spread through her heart, chest, lungs and liver.
“I was very angry because I had done my due diligence. I found the lump and sought medical attention. I took advice from three different doctors, and all three told me everything was fine…. At that point, I felt like I was going to die,” she said, referring to the news of her diagnosis.
The news shocked her family and left Blackwood Maxwell devastated and heartbroken, having just immigrated to Canada with great expectations of starting a new life.
After nine failed rounds of chemotherapy, she became despondent as her hopes of overcoming the disease looked bleak. However, she found strength in her faith and the main source of motivation – her children.
“I didn’t care what the medical report said, I was going to fight,” she told The Gleaner.
With that newfound determination, Blackwood took Maxwell another nine rounds of chemotherapy, this time with the potent drug Adriamycin, which bears the discouraging moniker “Red Devil.”
The disease is currently only present in a small part of her liver. While she hopes to be cancer-free soon, Blackwood Maxwell uses her experience to encourage other women fighting tumors.
Blackwood Maxwell is the ambassador for the Canada-based organization Look Good Feel Better, a non-medical public service program that teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of treatment.
A professional makeup artist who shared that she also struggled with self-acceptance problems caused by the side effects of chemotherapy now enjoys helping other women boost their confidence by teaching them hair and makeup techniques.
She is also the ambassador for The Olive Branch Of Hope, another Canada-based organization founded by breast cancer survivors to provide social and emotional support for women diagnosed with the disease.
She cited early detection as a lifesaver, saying: “I think I was pushed to the side because of my age. I’ve seen women diagnosed as young as 20 years old, so my advice is, if you feel a lump , don’t think you’re too young to get breast cancer.
“Be an advocate for yourself no matter what doctors say,” she added.
There are plans to launch Blackwood Maxwell’s foundation, aimed at providing support to other breast cancer patients.