Women's Health

WNBA Player Inspires Others After Battle with Breast Cancer

WNBA Player Inspires Others After Battle with Breast Cancer

Tiffany Jackson-Jones grew up near Dallas, Texas. She has always loved the sport of basketball and that has not changed through the years. Growing up she played ball for Duncansville High School, where she was named a WBCA All-American. During her college years at The University of Texas, ESPN named Tiffany national freshman of the year in 2003-2004. In 2007 she was named All-American.

After college, in 2007, Tiffany was drafted by the Liberty. She was off to a great career, playing in all 34 regular season games and three playoff games. Then she was traded to the Tulsa Shock in 2010. She played for the Shock two years before taking a season off to have her son, Marly.

When Tiffany returned to the WNBA in 2013 she played three more seasons but was not playing like she had in the past. Then 2015 hit and she got the shock of her life - Tiffany was diagnosed with breast cancer. This caused her to miss the entire 2016 season to fight for her life.

Changes in her body led her to seek help

She had been playing ball in Israel during the WNBA offseason when she noticed a lump in her breast. Tiffany only had a few weeks left to play so she waited until she got back to the U.S. to visit her OB/Gyn. Initially her doctor thought the lump was nothing to be concerned about because she did not have a family history of breast cancer and she was so young. But being cautious he recommended a biopsy.

However, the day she was supposed to have the biopsy was also the first day of camp for the Tulsa Shock. She decided not to miss camp and put the biopsy on the back burner. After starting the season with the Shock, Tiffany started to have pain and noticed the lump had grown. She called her doctor for another appointment.

This time her OB/Gyn was not as relaxed. He ordered the biopsy immediately. A few days later, as Tiffany was traveling with her team on the West Coast, she received a call. She had breast cancer. Instantly she thought of her basketball career, then she thought about her life and family. She said she was in shock at first.

The phone call finally sank in

She was dazed and confused; how could she have breast cancer? She did not take too much time to process the news because she had a game that evening in Seattle. A few days later, in Los Angeles, the diagnosis started to sink in. Tiffany said before the game started she went into the trainer room, shut the door and began crying. She said she just broke down and that is when it hit her.

It was playoffs and after that game she finally told her coaches and team of her news. She said no matter the outcome, this was her last game. Tiffany said they cried harder than she did. They did not know what to do, so they bought her an iPad and a Pandora bracelet to help lift her spirits.

Telling her agent was tough as well. John Spencer, had been her longtime agent. He remembers when he got the disheartening call from Tiffany. He did not want to believe what she was telling him. After all, Tiffany was a fighter, she had always been a fighter, how could this happen to her and why now?

Her agent knew she would overcome

She was just starting to hit her stride again after facing stress fractures which limited her playing time in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. John thought things were just starting to click for her again as she was playing an average of 15 minutes per game. But he never doubted that she would overcome this setback.

John said Tiffany is one of the toughest players he knows. And she gained support from her teammates, coaches and her family. Her son, Marly, became her biggest inspiration to keep on fighting. Being three years old, Tiffany says he does not really know what is going on. But he does look forward to the Spiderman and Scooby Doo band aids she sports home after her treatments.

Tiffany was determined throughout treatment

Treatment included four months of radiation followed by a mastectomy and then 33 more days of radiation and 16 rounds of chemotherapy. Tiffany said after that first month of radiation she never let the thought of not playing basketball again slip into her mind. She was determined. During treatment she worked out almost every day. And if she did not get a workout in, her doctor knew.

Tiffany’s pulse would skyrocket if she was not working out regularly. Her doctor told her she needed her to work out daily and not slack off. Tiffany said after that she was always working out. Her workouts kept her going. She told her trainer if she did not call to check in to call her and make sure she was out of bed and at the gym.

She did basketball drills and tried to do as much cardio as she could. Although, she had to swap the treadmill for the elliptical. She was determined to stay as strong and in shape as she could.

Basketball was the light she saw at the end of the tunnel. Basketball and her son of course. She was constantly fighting for him, so that he would not have to grow up without his mother. But after her son, basketball was that other thing that kept her fighting. She wanted to play ball again, not just for herself, but for others.

Tiffany entered remission and was soon back on the court

In May of 2016, Tiffany got the news that her cancer was in remission. She celebrated like any woman would, with several girlfriends and a mani/pedi party. Then after a few months, she was back on the court. She went back to the team in Israel to heighten her training before the WNBA season started. In her first game back she played 38 minutes and scored 14 points.

While she was overseas, her agent John called her with amazing news. The Shock was moving to her hometown of Dallas to become the Wings. It would have been a dream scenario but neither side could finalize a deal. So, John called the Sparks manager Penny Toler, who gave Tiffany the chance to earn her spot back, and that is just what she did.

Penny said she has always admired Tiffany’s aggressiveness, quickness and athleticism. Add to that her resiliency, persistence and perseverance that she has shown through her breast cancer battle and that makes her the total package. Penny said she truly fits the mold of the team. This season, Tiffany is averaging 6 minutes per game. Not where she used to be, but on track to skyrocket.

Tiffany interviewed with For The Win as part of the WNBA’s inaugural FIT Month. She said among several things that have changed after her battle is her willingness to speak up a little louder on issues that meant a lot to her. Tiffany said before she took a lot of things for granted, and now she is using basketball as a platform to help other people. Whether she is speaking up about health or social injustice, she will use her platform for good.