Jackie Jerebic: cancer on the side
For Jackie Jerebic, the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty comes to mind when she reflects on her cancer experience … something along the lines of suffering a great fall and finding herself in pieces.
“I don’t think they were able to put Humpty back together, but Wellspring definitely helped put me back together,” she said from her home in Edmonton. “Wellspring is this amazing safe environment that teaches you everything you need to know to survive – how it’s possible to live with cancer.”
Five years ago, after several years of struggling with the trials and disappointments of infertility, Jackie learned she had endometrial cancer. “I was in shock. I couldn’t even answer my phone,” she said, adding that the Stage 3 diagnosis was so jarring, she left work without packing up her desk or saying good-bye to her co-workers.
Ironically, just months earlier, Jackie and her husband Brian had driven by Wellspring Edmonton House that was, at the time, under construction. She noted the building with interest. “It looked like it was going to be spa, and I thought to myself – if that’s a spa, I want to go to it. Little did I know that a couple of months later when it opened, I’d be one of the first to join ‘the spa’,” she said.
Treatment for Jackie’s cancer included surgery and chemo. While both were considered successful, she has since endured several more surgeries, and is just now at the stable mark known as remission. With a cautious sense of hope, she is looking ahead for the first time in years.
“I have a weird relationship with the word ‘hope’. Over the years I came to see it as ‘nope’ – given my infertility and then the cancer. But Wellspring turned my ‘nope’ into ‘hope’,” she said. “At Wellspring you learn to turn off your brain and let your heart and intuition show you the way.”
Since 2018, Jackie has taken countless Wellspring programs from expressive arts and mediation, to nutrition, exercise and Brain Fog. One of her first, and still among her favourites programs, is the Harp Circle. “I love this group. Early on, when I thought I might die, I thought it would be great to learn to play the harp so I could play it in heaven,” she said, laughing. “I can laugh now, but believe me, I couldn’t laugh five years ago.”
The pandemic did not hinder her spirit to learn and grow. With keen awareness of her compromised immune system, she found it a relief to safely connect with her Wellspring community online and was able to stay focussed on her aim to cultivate a new normal.
In recent months, as she contemplated how to go about re-entering the work world, Jackie enrolled in Wellspring’s Returning to Work program, as well as Resumes and Interviews. Both gave her the confidence and skills to reengage with her employer. With newfound knowledge of her rights, a focus on her inner voice, and a wellness plan that puts her health front and centre, Jackie is easing back into her job.
“Cancer takes you out of the human race and puts you in a separate room where you are forced to deal with ‘cancer stuff.’ Then if you survive, you are thrown back into the real world, and that can be really hard! But Wellspring gives you the tools and the guidance to fit back in,” she said.
For Jackie, cancer is never completely in the rear-view mirror, but rather a constant companion that she has learned to make space for. “The way I see it, I’m the driver and cancer is the passenger. It has taught me a lot and I never want to forget these lessons.”
As for Wellspring, she is glad to be back in person with other members she describes as her friends – those who show no judgment and truly understand what she has been through.
“We come from all different backgrounds, but at Wellspring we are one,” she said. “It’s an amazing feeling to be in such a safe and caring space.”
As for her earlier premonition about Wellspring Edmonton House being a ‘spa’ – it doesn’t fully measure up, but she does describe it as having some magical healing qualities. “When you walk through the doors at Wellspring it’s like there is a huge magnet situated at the front entrance, and when you pass through, it takes away all the bad stuff.”