Imagine you are an 11-year-old girl, excited to join a new basketball team and meet new friends. But you’re told that one of your teammates has cancer, and over the course of the next two years, you watch her slip away. The community is forced to say goodbye to her, as she crosses over from this world to the next. Soon, two more kids in your tight-knit town become stricken with cancer. One of them, Corey, a dear friend. You see how they suffer, wonder at the injustice of cancer attacking not only children, but multiple kids in your area. Never realizing that you yourself will be the fourth child in your community, in the span of just a few years, to be diagnosed with cancer.
That girl is Jacklyn Balliot, a vibrant and athletic young woman who recently celebrated her 18th birthday, is starting freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and looks forward to medical school after college. Just two years ago, as a high school sophomore, Jacklyn was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – bone cancer.
“For weeks before my diagnosis, I had experienced excruciating pain in my left leg,” Jacklyn shares with Cancer for College. “Each doctor that I visited assumed that it was either a cheerleading injury or simply growing pains. Admittedly, I suspected the pain was due to something much more serious…”
For the next nine months, Jacklyn would undergo chemotherapy and a limb salvage surgery to treat the bone cancer which began just above her left knee. “I could not believe that this is what the other children who had cancer were going through,” she recalls. “The treatments were brutal, to say the least.”
Her dear friend, Corey, was battling his leukemia at a hospital just 10 minutes from where Jacklyn was being treated. Despite fighting for his own life, he would visit Jacklyn in the hospital. The two friends stayed in close contact during their treatments, joking about “favorite” medicines and “delicious” hospital food.
“Corey continued to encourage me throughout my treatments, even when he was battling for his own life,” remembers Jacklyn. “He would always tell me he was praying for me and that ‘God’s got this’.”
November 2012 brought Jacklyn the best news and the worst news: just a few days after she was officially declared cancer-free, Corey lost his fight. She and her community had to say goodbye to yet another beautiful young person taken from them far too soon.
This year, in addition to graduating from high school and starting her first year of college, a healthy Jacklyn is working to launch a non-profit organization, The FISH Foundation (Friends in Sickness & Health), created in loving memory of the three kids lost — Karla, Madison and Corey — with a special nod to Corey whose last name was Fish.
“The primary goal of my foundation is to provide financial support to the families of children battling cancer,” details Jacklyn. “Witnessing how the outrageous costs of fighting cancer impacted my family broke my heart, which is why I aspire to help other families in need. To make my foundation unique, I would also like to provide the child fighting cancer with a gift of their choosing.” Jacklyn reports that she’s recently found the extra help needed to get the FISH Foundation off the ground and is excited for the next steps.
Jacklyn with her Mom after high school graduation, 2014
Jacklyn gets special permission from her doctors to fly with her Varsity Cheer team on Senior Night.
Jacklyn is our first perpetual scholarship winner from the Carolinas, which means she will receive a $4,000 scholarship every year for four years from Cancer for College. We wish Jacklyn, and all of our scholarship recipients, the very best of luck in the coming days and years. Thank you to all who support Cancer for College and allow us to be a part of the very bright futures of these young cancer survivors.