By Nancy Gay, APR - November 02, 2018
As the voice of Bruce Springsteen sailed overhead, Jessica Schwarzkopf danced in the dark at the 2009 Bonnaroo Music Festival with bandages wrapped tightly around her chest. The woven material served as a stark reminder of how far she’s come in a year. In fact, just one day before the concert, physicians removed her surgical drains following a post-breast cancer reconstruction operation.
In March 2008, Schwarzkopf felt a lump on her breast while applying lotion after a shower. She instinctively knew something was wrong. She was surprised, but not shocked when doctors diagnosed her with stage 1 breast cancer at the age of 36.
Schwarzkopf’s father, General Norman Schwarzkopf, is one of the most celebrated four-star generals of modern time. She watched him fight prostate cancer with the same gusto he had during the Gulf War and she knew she had to battle breast cancer the same way.
She always says, “He was my hero before he was everyone else’s.”
At a time when many of her friends were getting married and having babies, Schwarzkopf was undergoing cancer treatment, which included two lumpectomies and radiation. She also took the medications Tamoxifen and Herceptin before undergoing reconstructive surgery. Yet, she never felt sorry for herself.
She inherited her father’s famous fighting spirit and insisted on going to her appointments on her own. Schwarzkopf always felt like she would beat cancer. She didn’t look at it like a death sentence because she saw her father conquer cancer and advocate for early detection. She says, “Being courageous and strong means doing what’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Go and get that test done. You may be scared to death, but you got to do it.”
She says ringing the bell after her last radiation treatment was empowering and signaled the end of one of life’s chapters and the beginning of another. Following treatment Schwarzkopf underwent several reconstruction operations and is outspoken about breast cancer awareness.
A decade after undergoing treatment at Moffitt, Schwarzkopf will carry on her father’s legacy by taking part in Moffitt Cancer Center’s annual Veteran’s Day celebration at 8:30 a.m. on Nov.9. She will help honor an Air Force veteran who recently underwent CAR T therapy for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.