Jenkins MBA Student Uses Diagnosis to Help Other Cancer Patients
A family. A full-time managerial position at a top local tech company. A challenging course load while finishing her MBA degree. And then a cancer diagnosis… for the third time. For most people, it would be enough to throw their hands up and cry. But Jenkins MBA student Jacqueline Cromity isn’t most people.
“Last spring I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time – after being cleared of the disease twice already,” Cromity says. “And I found my cancer two of the three times – not doctors, or mammograms or ultrasounds. I just knew something was wrong.”
Cromity, who currently serves as a senior manager at Cisco where she oversees other managers as part of a global team, received her initial diagnosis in 2013. She told her manager of her diagnosis in confidence, asking that she not be treated any differently, nor have her workload reduced.
“At that time, I was leading a project that I wanted to see through, and I was committed to my customers,” she remembers.
After I received my first chemo session, I flew overseas to discuss my organization’s strategy with senior management in India. I drove my kids to school. During chemo treatments, I would take conference calls.
While she powered through, Cromity couldn’t help but feel – and see – the side-effects of her cancer treatments. Radiation and chemotherapy affected her mentally and physically – from memory lapses to hair loss to subungual lesions – which is a darkening of the nail around the cuticle. It was during those times, she began to recognize how difficult it was for cancer patients to find the resources to care for themselves post-treatment.
“I remember going to the nail salon and having the technician be hesitant to work on my nails, and having to go into detail with a stranger about it being a side effect of my cancer treatment,” she says. “And worse than that, after a double mastectomy, I remember going to look for breast prosthesis and only seeing pink breasts. I’m a black woman.”
All these experiences inspired Cromity to start a project with a 501c3, Genuine Self Images, called Survivor Friendly® in 2018. The organization partners with local businesses and other organizations to distribute free bags, which include beauty essentially and other supplies to help assist cancer survivors with the healing process, in hopes of bringing them some normalcy to life after cancer.
While going through the Jenkins MBA Program, Cromity leaned heavily on professors, like Jeff Pollack, and her classmates to help validate her concept.
“I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, which is why I wanted to pursue an MBA,” she says. “I knew it would be helpful in networking, while also allowing me to expand my knowledge of other business areas – since my educational background is in software engineering. But I didn’t realize how powerful marketing, in particular, can be.”
When she graduates from the Jenkins MBA program this spring, Cromity knows she’ll bring with her some valuable insight that will allow her to continue to grow Survivor Friendly. Survivor Friendly recently expanded its project and started a one-stop, for-profit durable medical equipment (DME) boutique that is focused exclusively on selling a variety of modern quality-of-life essentials while providing education and support to cancer-surviving women at 527 Keisler Suite 104 in Cary.
“My time with the Jenkins MBA Program has given me confidence in knowing I’m being pragmatic in how I arrive at decisions – as opposed to relying on a gut feeling,” she says.
“I have always done that in a corporate setting, but being able to use data and incorporate some of these other business principles as an entrepreneur is new for me. And I’m excited to see where this journey will take me.