“This, Too, Shall Pass”

By Elaine Jimenez | 9/21/2023

LEWISVILLE, NC – Eager elementary students flood into a lively classroom awaiting their teacher. Carolyn Jakobowski opens the lesson plans she meticulously planned for the end of the school year. Unbeknownst to her, a hidden enemy strengthens behind her joyful eyes.

Jakobowski has been fiercely battling stage four glioblastoma, a common cancer that attaches to the brain. The commonality of glioblastoma does not, however, lessen its aggressiveness. The tumor grows fingers that can swiftly extend along the brain.

An unexpected seizure on March 26, 2023, exposed the unseen foe living on the right lobe of her brain. Jakobowski stresses, “I was very fortunate because it was encapsulated when they found it. It was very, very small.”

The tumor developed within four months. She explains, “Every November, I go in for an MRI.” The scan measures the growth of a benign tumor resting on her pituitary gland. The MRI from November 2022 showed no signs of glioblastoma.

“It was, like, shocking,” remembers Kystal Baker, a friend of Jakobowski, “because you don’t think somebody as healthy and vibrant as Carolyn is [sic] would have a tumor.” Doctors removed the tumor from her brain, but Jakobowski continues with treatments to prevent its resurgence.

Radiation was the first hurdle. Tears swelled in her husband’s eyes, recalling the end of his wife’s radiation treatment. The achievement concludes with a commemorative bell-ringing event. Rob Jakobowski described the atmosphere as overwhelming. The amount of support from neighbors and friends stunned him.

Krystal Baker supported the accomplishment of Jakobowski’s cancer journey. “Everybody was excited because, you know, that was a major milestone for her to get to the end of that.”

During radiation, Jakobowski began the Optune Program, which her radiologist recommended. The program includes a hefty battery pack connected to three hand-sized bandages covering her head. The bandages secure quarter-sized disks that send electrical impulses to disturb the formation of proteins that could potentially produce another tumor.

Patients who have completed radiation typically enroll in the program. Doctors agreed, however, that Jakobowski could begin the therapy sooner than other patients due to her capability of bearing the burdensome baggage.

Before beginning her battle with cancer, Jakobowski taught first and second-graders at Southwest Elementary School in Winston-Salem.

After suffering from the seizure and undergoing surgery, Jakobowski recuperated and regained normality over the summer.

“I had energy,” she added. She returned to cooking and baking for family and friends. She craved normalcy in a situation that detaches people from society. “When I was diagnosed, I didn’t want it to be isolating,” noted Jakobowski, “I would need people around me because I’m a people person.”

As school resumed in the fall, Jakobowski reentered Southwest as an enrichment teacher for first and second graders. The students who excel in testing practice reading and math with Jakobowski, whom they affectionately call Mrs. J.

Her former students were delighted to see their teacher return. “They’re always excited to see me in the hall,” she says, smiling. They cry, “Mrs. J., You’re back!”

The children notice her Optune backpack and wonder what it is. She explains, “Mrs. J. has a sore in her head, and this [pointing to the cord and backpack] prevents more sores from forming.” She avoids the word tumor. “I wanted to share with them that cancer isn’t something to be fearful of.”

Jakobowski desires to show others that cancer is not to be feared. She shares that her dad died from throat cancer. “I had a lot of anxiety during that time he was sick with it, which was only about three months.”

She worried that her three kids, Ben, Andrew, and Carlee, would undergo the same fear she suffered with her dad’s cancer. Her concerns vanished when Andrew asked, “Mom, why would I be afraid of cancer?” His calm response eased Jakobowski’s worries.

Her faith in God also plays a part in combating her fear. She sports a cross necklace and glances at the Bible lying on the table. “I don’t think God’s done with me yet,” reasons Jakobowski. Rob, her husband, details that she prays and reads a devotion each morning. “She’s learned to lean on her faith.”

“This, too, shall pass” is the motto her mother extended to her. The phrase, originating from Corinthians 4:17-18, motivates her through painful days.

When life takes a turn for the worse, human nature cries, “Why me?” Carolyn Jakobowski’s life shifted after her cancer diagnosis. However, her optimistic attitude continues to shine throughout the storms she faces. Her vibrance overshadows the dark, ominous illness that failed to attack her bright, selfless spirit.

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