Jacqueline Cromity- 3 Time Breast Cancer Thriver and Survivor
Jacqueline, the owner of Survivor Friendly®, lost her mom to breast cancer when she was only eight. Then, in June of 2020, her dad died from cancer as well. Her own very personal experiences working with survivors, backed up by NC state research, confirmed for her the need for a one-stop-shop offering durable medical equipment specifically for women with breast cancer diagnoses.
As a woman of color, Jackie learned the hard way about the appalling lack of variety when it comes to ethnicities and product lines. Perhaps even worse, she experienced firsthand the dehumanizing lack of the personal touch that’s needed to assist women with this difficult transition. Jackie found this need in North Carolina . . . and, indeed, industry wide.
“I can’t tell you the number of stores I went to, the number of insurance claims I had to figure out, and the number of times I experienced the sheer frustration of having to settle for getting such personal items in such an impersonal way,” Jackie said.
The intensity of cancer treatment means there are many side effects that an average salesperson just couldn’t know about. But a cancer survivor sure could! And that’s why Jackie set out to offer the information, support, and product choices cancer survivors need to regain confidence in their daily lives.
The owner and operator of Survivor Friendly® beat Cancer for the third time, finally being clinically declared cancer free after having five tumors between 2013 and 2020, a lumpectomy and two bilateral mastectomies, and many surgeries in between.
“I cherish each day I breathe life. But my heart is burdened by the lack of resources available to people just like me who are traveling through a health journey just like mine. I plan to do something about that,” Jackie said.
“My chest is scarred. Most of the time, I used to change in the dark so my husband, who loves me more than life itself, would not see me. Though I am the most confident person you will meet, the day I took off my bandages to reveal my new body without breasts was devastating. For a moment, I questioned everything; I was confused, and I was mad. I avoided a mirror for weeks—a flat chest, I discovered, makes my stomach stick out even further. God had to help me accept this new me, and I’m still on that acceptance path. I didn’t need that added frustration of having to buy my mastectomy products from stores and vendors staffed by random people who don’t understand my struggle, my surgeries, my proper measurements, and the unintended reaction that comes from seeing my scars. And the fact that I can’t quickly get prosthetics that are anywhere close to my skin color is really disheartening,” Jackie explained.
“My body will never be the same. It’s tough to have to revalidate myself as a woman and, at the same time, to be thankful for the gift of my life. Now add the hair that’s slowly growing back, the missing eyebrows, the darkened nails, the swollen body, the missing eyelashes, and the early menopausal symptoms that started when I was just 34! I am thankful for health insurance, but there were many gap exceptions (because of lack of resources in my area), and the delayed repayment was an issue. I managed, but I wanted to do more than manage, I wanted to thrive!”
Over and over, I walked into businesses that were staffed by people who just didn’t understand what I’d been through; specialty shops that allotted only 30-minute appointments, with salespeople firing off questions with no real concern for my personal needs and goals. All that pushed me to a place where I had to do something. And so, I did!”
Our History: Survivor Friendly® started in 2017 in partnership with Genuine Self Images, a 501(c)(3) corporation. Its mission is to raise awareness in the marketplace of the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment in order to help survivors transition to normality during their shopping experiences and in the workplace. We also distribute bags to multiple cancer centers and send masks overseas to provide free beauty essentials that are not covered by insurance.
In 2020, the purchase of a building allowed us to create a beautiful space for breast cancer survivors, where they could engage with one another and share their personal experiences. Survivor Friendly® is the first organization in all of the Eastern United States to be a one-stop-shop for specialty items exclusively for cancer survivors (DEMOS), focused on mastectomy products, cranial prosthetic wigs, and other personal care needs. It has since expanded in three location across North Carolina.