Stafon Harris-Jackson radiates happiness and positivity. So much so, that you may not know she survived colon cancer twice—years after losing her daughter to childhood cancer. While many may have felt defeated, Stafon uses these experiences to help others through her newly formed cancer foundation and speaking engagements. You may have even spotted the 46-year-old Texas native at this year’s National Conference or Dallas/Fort Worth Undy Run/Walk. We’re excited to honor this Renaissance woman as our December Hero of the Month!
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
My purpose is to help—I’m a philanthropist and I talk about cancer every day. Sometimes I get emotional when I talk about it, but it feels good because I know my purpose is bigger than me.
I was introduced to cancer through my first daughter. I married at 18, didn’t attend college and had a child. I went through a lot during that marriage and also received another emotional blow when my daughter was diagnosed with stage IV Neuroblastoma in July 1998. Our doctors said she was terminal and gave us 14 more months with her—and they were right. She passed away at just three years old in September 1999. Eleven years later, on April 19, 2010, I was diagnosed with colon cancer.
How were you diagnosed with colon cancer?
I was a 40-year-old healthy woman with no family history and no recognizable symptoms. One day, I fell down while in my home alone. I tried to crawl to the phone to call for an ambulance, but I passed out. Luckily, my daughter came home early from a day of bowling with her friends to find me on the floor. I was rushed to the hospital and learned that I passed out because my appendix burst—I had perforation of the colon and a piece of my colon broke a part and wrapped itself around my appendix.
I recovered, but the cancer returned in 2013. It was hard this time because I couldn’t work and didn’t know about resources like the Colon Cancer Alliance and all of the great things the organization is doing. Now I know more and use this knowledge to spread colon cancer awareness, especially in the Hispanic and African American communities.
How did you learn about the Colon Cancer Alliance and what made you want to get involved?
While searching online, I stumbled on the Terrance Howard video where he spoke about his connection to colon cancer and I thought, “I wish I’d known about the Colon Cancer Alliance! They could have helped me when I was sick.” Then, I went to the website, subscribed to the newsletter and learned about the National Conference. I’ve wanted to attend the conference since that moment, but couldn’t afford it. This year, however, I received an email about conference scholarships and applied; I was so happy to be one of the survivors chosen to attend!
Last month, I created a team for the Dallas/Fort Worth Undy and recruited people to join me—I want to spread the word about the Colon Cancer Alliance in Texas.
You’re so passionate about raising colon cancer awareness. What drives this passion?
When you look death in the face, it changes your life. My two battles literally changed my life. I realize now that I have a purpose. I do speaking engagements where I tell people the truth about living with colon cancer, screening and about this disease being preventable and treatable. I also talk about things people don’t want to talk about like looking at your stool, because if I don’t talk about it, who will?
You’re also involved in the cancer community at large; tell us about the foundation you started.
Before my daughter passed, she said, “Mommy, when I become an angel, please don’t forget me.” That motivated me. I had no clue what I would do, but I knew I didn’t want to let my child down.
I formed the CNJ Cancer Foundation, named after my daughter Cherae Nekole Jackson, in 2014, and received nonprofit status this year. The CNJ Cancer Foundation is dedicated to assisting families affected by colon cancer and childhood cancer with financial and emotional support; this could mean anything from providing family counseling to simply helping families in need buy groceries.
What is your ultimate message?
My ultimate goal is to let everyone know that God has your back—keep living and keep believing. And in the words of my three-year-old, “Keep smiling.”