Saturday, April 7, 2012

Meet Jackie Zavodney

Jewell Cardwell: Breast cancer survivor focuses on her blessings

By Jewell Cardwell
Beacon Journal columnist

Jackie Zavodney (right) of Wadsworth goes over some questions with oncology nurse Regina Saus before Zavodney receives chemotherapy for her breast cancer at Akron General Medical Center's McDowell Cancer Center Tuesday in Akron. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

Jackie Whitt Zavodney has a book in her, which those close to her say is determined to get out.

But the former communications manager for the Summit County chapter of the American Red Cross — one of the many casualties of downsizing there — is battling aggressive breast cancer.

Little could she have known years ago when she and the late Rosemary Cozart, the Red Cross coordinator of disaster relief, started the “Acts of Courage” recognitions that she would be tapping into her own reservoir of courage to get through this chapter of her life.

The 43-year-old Wadsworth mother of two (Shawn, 10, and Tristan, 12) recalls being so busy, working a brief but intense part-time job for the March of Dimes’ “March for Babies” event that she ignored a message her body was sending her.

So, she’s going public to talk about her crisis in hopes it will help others, telling all women to be vigilant about those breast self-exams and getting timely mammograms.

“I noticed back in February that I had a lump in my right breast,” Zavodney said. “I had them before and when they were checked out they always turned out to be nothing. So I didn’t stress about it too much.

“I didn’t revisit it again until late May or early June. By then, it had grown twice in size and was painful. ‘OK, this is not typical,’ ” she said of the conversation she had with herself.

She hurriedly scheduled a mammogram that detected a mass, and a biopsy was performed. “I never expected that phone call saying what it said: Stage 3 invasive ductile carcinoma.”

“The type I have is a double negative,” she continued. “That means it doesn’t respond to hormone therapy.”

Since undergoing a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, Zavodney has been receiving Herceptin, which targets cancer cells. She’ll be on that for the better part of a year. She’s also on Taxol. Both are administered intravenously through a port surgically placed beneath the skin of her left arm.

“Prior to this treatment, I was on what they call the ‘red devil’ of chemos. Adriamycin/doxorubicin is part of a three-part regimen known as ACT, which stands for Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol. This is the chemo that took my hair and sent me straight into menopause.”

Her Monday chemotherapy dates at Akron General Medical Center’s McDowell Cancer Center last three to four hours on average. Through it all, Zavodney focuses on her blessings: her very supportive family and a cancer team she calls the best in the area: Dr. Jessica Partin, her surgeon; Dr. Douglas Wagner, who did the reconstruction; and Dr. Ifeoma Roseline Okeke, her oncologist.

“I also want to mention some local foundations and agencies that have helped me and my family through this rough patch,” Zavodney continued. “I want other women who might be dealing with the same issues to know that there are wonderful local and national resources out there. They are there to help women just like me. All you have to do is apply for the grants. They are very supportive! I encourage all women who are going through breast cancer treatment to apply. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

That endless gratitude list includes the American Cancer Society, the Mary Grace Memorial Foundation (Medina), Stewart’s Caring Place, the Stephen A. Comunale Jr. Family Cancer Foundation, J.D. Breast Cancer Foundation, CancerCare (financial assistance), Catholic Charities Community Services and FISH (Wadsworth residents).
In recognition for the many lives that Jackie Whitt Zavodney has touched over the years, friends have organized a benefit to help her navigate these difficult waters. She’s now on Medicaid with no income, and bills are piling up.

That event, organized by Nikki Cash, is planned for 4 p.m. April 22, at Ripper Owens’ Tap House, 491 E. Waterloo Road, Akron.

Owners Tim Owens and Randy Arehart have friendships with Zavodney that go back a number of years when she traveled to California with her now ex-husband but dear friend Shawn Zavodney, a keyboardist who toured with the band Warrant (the recently deceased Jani Lane’s original project).

Half of the proceeds from the event (music, food, raffles) will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Online donations also are being accepted at
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or emailed at


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