Dr Jacqueline King: Thriving after cancer diagnosis in 2010

This month, as the focus is on breast cancer awareness, we bring some previously published stories of breast cancer survivors.
This article was first published on October 16, 2022.

She has thrived significantly after being diagnosed with cancer. And Dr Jacqueline “Jacqui” King wants others to know that they too can overcome cancer and live active and successful lives.

The physiotherapist and owner of Sports and Physical Therapy Clinic never allowed the fact that she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer back in 2010 stop her from enjoying life. During a career that has spanned 40 years, Jacqui not only beat breast cancer, but today works with those who are battling the illness.

A product of Hilltop Primary School and Queen’s College, Jacqui, holds a BSc in physiotherapy from the University of the West Indies Mona Campus and a doctorate from Utica College in New York, United States of America.

On completion of her studies in Jamaica, she returned to Barbados where she found herself getting heavily involved in sports.

“There were few physiotherapists involved in sports at the time and I felt it was a niche I could fill,” she shared with Easy.

Within a short time, Jacqui was lending her skill and professional practice to football, hockey, various teams of the Barbados Olympic Association, the Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games, Olympics and has been the physiotherapist for the Barbados Senior Men’s Cricket team for the past 36 years. The founding member of the Barbados Physical Therapy Association married her career as a physiotherapist to that of helping persons who have been diagnosed with cancer.

She explained to Easy, “I have spent a lot of time involved in physiotherapy, not only clinically, but also by promoting and advocating on behalf of the profession both here in Barbados and regionally.”

Currently the vice chairman of the North America Caribbean Region of World Physiotherapy, Jacqui looks back at her battle with cancer and sees herself as one who continues to thrive.
How she discovered she had breast cancer is interesting.

She shared, “I was doing a self -examination one night in November 2010, when I found a lump.
“I was always checking for lumps and was cognisant of the fact that three of my aunts on my father’s side of the family, all had breast cancer.”

She added, “I felt the lump and I knew immediately what it felt like. The next morning, I went to my doctor. The lump was so tiny I had to put his finger on it.”

The doctor ordered that a biopsy be done. When the results came back two weeks later, they were positive.

Jacqui recalled, “We then had to figure out what would be the next step and what treatment would be involved. Based on discussions with my doctor and the surgeon, a lumpectomy procedure was performed, which meant that the lump was removed because of its small size.”

Jacqui, who was due to go on a cricket tour to India with the West Indies Barbados Women’s Cricket Team, left the island two weeks later, on January 1, 2011.

“I had to then wait for six weeks before the chemotherapy treatment began. That started in February,” she disclosed.

After her first round of chemotherapy was administered, she began to lose her hair.

She laughed as she said, “After the first round I decided I was not going to look like some “mangy” dog, so I went directly to my hairdresser and told her to shave off all my hair. I was happy to have a bald head. But she cut and coloured a wig which looked exactly like my hair, so some people had no idea that I had no hair on my head.”

During her rounds of chemotherapy Jacqui maintained an active lifestyle and continued to work.
She disclosed, “I tried as much as possible to live life normally. Initially,
I was scared. But then it was like, “Lord, you know why you have brought me to this and You must bring me through it.”

“My daughter was completing her Master’s programme in architecture at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, United States, and even though she was worried about my health and I was sick, I went there to help her build model types and to help her with her thesis. My doctor thought I was crazy, but I spent six weeks with my daughter before returning home.”

Genetic testing

On her return, Jacqui underwent six weeks of radiation treatment. However, that was not the end for her. She then decided to have a genetic testing done for the BRCA 1 and 2 genes.

She shared, “When the opportunity arose for me to have these tests carried out, I grabbed it. The results showed I had the BRCA gene.”

It was then that she decided to have a double mastectomy performed
on her breasts; that is, to have both breasts removed.

“Because I had the gene I knew there was the high possibility that the cancer could come back.”

Following the mastectomy, a PET-CT-scan was performed, which showed she was cancer-free.

She told Easy about her mastectomy, “I had a partner at the time and he was very supportive. His mother had also had cancer and he knew the ropes better than I did. It really didn’t matter to me though what anybody thought after my breasts were removed. I did what I had to do to live and live well, without worrying about breast cancer. I was never that attached to my breasts anyway,” she said with a laugh.

The grandmother to a six-year-old grandson further stated through a fit of laughter, “I decided to have reconstructive surgery done on my breasts. This was mainly because I was working with cricket teams and I could not envisage myself running across the field and the prosthesis falling out, or it being in the back when it should be at the front.”

Much has changed for Jacqui since her diagnosis and treatment.

Breast cancer and lymphedema

She explained, “Since I had breast cancer, my practice has changed. I now treat a lot of patients who have breast cancer and lymphedema, which is secondary to breast cancer and which an individual can have when lymph nodes are removed.

“I have been a certified lymphedema therapist since 2013 and did the training initially to manage myself. Soon after, I ended up getting patients referred to me by doctors. So now this is one of my interests – managing women with lymphedema.”

It is worthy to note that prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, Jacqui underwent yearly mammogram tests.

She stressed, “The earlier you detect that you have breast cancer the better your outcome will be. Being told you have cancer can be a frightening experience. The way you are informed is also very important. In turn, your reaction and positivity are necessary for you to thrive and do well.”

Jacqui also reiterated, “Support is important. I had lots of family support, support from friends, my staff, the medical team and even doctors who advised me. I knew I was going to get through this because a lot of people were there for me.”

Sadly, Jacqui lost her only sister to breast cancer in 2018, at the age of 49. Another cousin continues to thrive since her diagnosis.

Jacqui maintains her positivity. She stressed, “My mantra is life is for living. That’s why I refuse to call myself a cancer survivor. I am simply thriving after cancer.”

Today, getting enough exercise and proper nutrition continue to be important to Jacqui as she embraces life every day, with a thankful heart.

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