Brain-tumor survivor makes comeback

By Anna Shea—

This is a story about a recovery from a devastating illness, about talented doctors and good fortune, and about adapting when life circumstances have changed.

Jaclyn Sabol

The remarkable news in this story is that Jaclyn Sabol, J/MS 2004, who was a dancer and video host for the New Jersey Nets when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor in 2010, is well again. Only eight months out of chemotherapy, Sabol has regained her strength and has put this frightening medical experience behind her.

As her health progressively improves, so does her life. Sabol, 29, has moved from the Nets (who have moved themselves from New Jersey to Brooklyn) and now works for MediaMax Network, which sells advertisements for all the Condé Nast publications, including Lucky, Self, Vogue and 13 other magazines.

Sabol commutes from her new home in Westchester, NY, into Manhattan. After 18 months of treatment, Sabol has found the strength to work 10-hour days and enjoy every minute of them.

“Before I got sick I could work a 17-hour day and not even bat an eyelash at it,” she said. “But I do feel like my energy is coming back, and I’m definitely feeling more and more like my old self again.”

A brain tumor may have interrupted her life momentarily, but Sabol feels she never really lost her “old self.” The skills she acquired when video hosting and entertaining the audiences at the Nets’ stadium influence the sales work she does today. Presenting to clients, she noted, is not stressful, although it may be to others. According to Sabol, being the main focus in an arena filled with thousands of attentive fans makes the anxiety of a boardroom presentation seem minimal.

Beside her new position, the ever-moving Sabol has found time to also create her own foundation. In honor of her mother, Elizabeth Sabol, Jaclyn created the Jaclyn Elizabeth Ann Foundation to raise money for young adults who are struggling with paying for medical crises, similar to what Sabol endured during her treatment.

“A lot of us in our 20s are not settled in a career and don’t have health insurance through a company,” she said. “For somebody who is trying to do journalism, I was doing a ton of freelance jobs and was still considered ‘part-time,’ according to the Nets.”

For a young person who develops a critical illness, the healing process can be hindered by the stress of financial instability, Sabol continued.

“During treatment,” Sabol noted, “I was so angered at the whole situation. There were definitely times that I was so stressed out about my health, thinking that this disease could kill me, and that I had to put 100 percent of my attention towards getting well. But every single time I opened my mailbox, I had a stack of medical bills.”

Sabol is working closely with the National Brain Tumor Society and is on now its executive committee.

She is thinking about merging her foundation with the society because of the “unbelievable strides” the society is making toward a cure.

Although her plate is full operating the foundation and selling ads full-time, Sabol still looks forward to the day she starts dancing again.

“I hope to get back involved with dancing, whether it’s teaching or getting involved in something competitive, or even something like ballroom dancing,” she said.