It was a decade ago that Jackie Martinez was diagnosed with breast cancer, endured chemotherapy and underwent breast-removal and reconstructive surgeries. She thought the disease was behind her.
But the 48-year-old MetroWest resident was left disabled after doctors determined the cancer had spread in 2011 and suggested she have radiation on her pelvic bone. Today, she walks with a cane and sometimes drags her leg because the pain is so intense.
In 2017, doctors found a tumor just outside the implant and ordered more chemotherapy plus radiation.
Last year, Martinez felt a lump on the left side of her neck; doctors diagnosed her with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
Her treatment includes chemo injections and oral medication. Her body tolerates the medicine, she said, but she often is exhausted. This makes it hard to be there for two of her three children — a 13-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son — who still live at home.
“I was told there’s no cure for Stage 4,” she said. “It’s just pretty much chemo and treatment for as long as my body can tolerate it. At that end point my body rejects the medication, they’ll maybe look into other medications.”
Not only is Martinez fighting for her life, but she’s facing exorbitant hospital bills after losing her insurance. She has applied for emergency Medicaid so she can schedule a PET scan imaging test that will determine if her treatment is working.
To help pay down her medical debt, Martinez has been making and selling holiday and themed wreaths.
Martinez’s friend, Debbie Calderon, shared the wreaths on Facebook to increase sales. Susan Ratcliff, Ocoee High School art teacher, contacted Calderon with an idea she said could raise more money for Martinez, as long as she had a space to hold the event.
Ratcliff, owner of Strut the Brush, is teaching a painting class, and for $35, participants will create a colorful beach scene through a step-by-step process. Ratcliff is donating all of the fees minus about $100 for the supplies.
“The first place I asked to host it for us was Franco’s (Pizzeria), and they were very happy to do it,” Calderon said. “They said, ‘Of course we’ll accommodate you. So many people did so much for Debra that we’ll give you the space to do it.”
The community gave its full support to Franco’s last year when its owner, Debra Nix, endured a long battle with cancer, so the restaurant is eager to give back to the community. Painters also can purchase a baked-ziti plate dubbed the Jackie Special for the evening.
“People have left things at Franco’s for Jackie,” Calderon said. “I see so much good in people.”
Martinez said she is overwhelmed by the generosity of Ratcliff, Franco’s and area residents.
“I think it’s unbelievable,” she said. “I don’t know them, and for them to even allow this to happen, to help me out in this way, it’s amazing.”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.