Sisters Network Inc. Founder and CEO Karen Jackson (center) greets Greensboro members Jeannette McCall (left) and Rokisha Rover-Simrel (right) in Durham, N.C. (Courtesy photo)

When four-time breast cancer survivor, Karen Jackson was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she had no experience nor knowledge of the disease. Jackson felt alone and knew the importance of having people around during this difficult time. That was the reasoning behind her founding Sisters Network Inc. in 1994. And it’s why she’s detailing her journey in a new book, In the Company of My Sisters: My Story, My Truth.

Jackson’s new book speaks about her life dedicated to assisting other breast cancer survivors. She talked with the Defender about the book, Sisters Network Inc. and her motto in life.

Defender: What do you hope people walk away with after having read the book?

Karen Jackson: Well, the biggest thing is that there is no need for women to die of breast cancer. They don’t need to be alone. I share my story in hopes that people will be educated and inspired by my battling – and surviving – breast cancer four times.

Defender: Is this just for those diagnosed with breast cancer, or does it contain information for others?

Jackson: It is for African American breast cancer advocates, so that includes people who have breast cancer, those who know someone battling it, or those who just want to educate themselves.

Defender: Why did you decide to write In the Company of My Sisters?

Jackson: It gave me an opportunity to speak on my story and my truth. When I was first diagnosed, I had little knowledge of the disease, so I immersed myself in information. It didn’t take me long to discover that finding information was difficult due to the limited amount of culturally sensitive material. You learn quickly how to become your own best advocate and sometimes even your own best friend. And as I educated myself, the fire was fueled to educate others. In retrospect, my need to make a difference in the lives of Black breast cancer survivors was my total focus. This memoir is a culmination of my journey through breast cancer – from my personal experiences and observations as a survivor, to my life’s path and commitment to increasing local and national attention, to the devastating impact that breast cancer has in the African American community.

Defender: A lot of people would give up after being diagnosed four times. How did you find strength to go on?

Jackson: I have inner strength that developed over the years. I needed to know what my body was trying to tell me. I had to pay attention and it saved my life. I call it my inner spirit.

Defender: What is your motto in life?

Jackson: To live the best life. A purposeful life.

Defender: How does it feel to be an inspiration to countless African American women?

Jackson: I never thought of it that way. I feel knowledge is power and when you gain that power, you should share that with others. It’s just second nature for me to give back.

Defender: Did you ever think the Sisters Network would expand to this extent to help numerous African American women?

Jackson: Yes. I was wondering when it would happen. It took a long time. I never doubted but I didn’t think it would take so long.

Defender: Did you experience any struggles when starting the Sisters Network Inc?

Jackson: Black non-profits were not taken seriously and there was little funding. The Sisters Network shines bright because we were doing the work but we didn’t have the funding or support. We never were able to spend money on advertising. So we would have to post on social media or word-of-mouth. Black women, breast cancer is real and should be a priority.