Giving to Help Eradicate Rare Cancers
Barbara Uscian Jackson lost her husband, Dr. Jay Vernon Jackson, to cancer in 2009. Jay's diagnosis of liposarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer, during his 50s motivated Barbara to help find a cure.
"Working to eradicate this disease is a way to honor your loved one," Barbara says. "While there's no way to bring him back, I want to do what I can with the resources I have and help make sure this does not happen to anyone else."
Online searches for more information on liposarcoma led Jay and Barbara to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. They traveled to Houston from their home in the Chicago suburbs so Jay could undergo surgery and receive treatment from doctors working in the nation's largest clinical research program.
"The thing that impressed me the most was that the staff at MD Anderson treated my husband like a person and not a number," Barbara says. "When my husband died, I got a condolence card from his caregivers at the hospital. Not only did they sign the card, but each person also wrote something personal about Jay. That really touched me."
Barbara wanted to give back to the institution and at the same time increase awareness and funding for sarcoma research.
"It doesn't get as much attention as some of the more well-known cancers," she says.
Barbara gives yearly to MD Anderson's Department of Sarcoma Medical Oncology and has made a gift in her estate plan to establish an endowed fellowship for sarcoma research. The fellowship is a "way to keep my husband's memory alive," she says, as it will be named after Jay.
"It will help the small department grow and ensure they receive funds each year," she says.
"It also is fitting that this fellowship will be related to what my husband did for a living," Barbara says.
Jay was a chemical engineer for 35 years at Abbott Laboratories, where he worked with pharmaceuticals. When planning her gift, Barbara appreciated that she'd be able to create the fellowship "without jeopardizing my retirement or my children's future."
In addition to giving to MD Anderson, Barbara helps ease the burden of those affected by sarcomas by hosting a support group, the Sarcoma Chicagoland Warriors. People from different races, nationalities and walks of life gather four times a year to share their experiences and raise money to advance sarcoma research.
"What binds us together," Barbara says, "is that we all have been victims of sarcoma in some way. While this is a rare cancer, unfortunately, it's not rare enough."
With the help of gifts like those from Barbara, scientists can take much-needed strides toward eliminating this devastating disease.