How Dr. Jackie Walters Overcame Breast Cancer (twice), Pregnancy Loss, and Infertility

Dr. Jackie Walters, Married to Medicine
(Photo by: Michael Larsen/Bravo)

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved” (unknown). Dr. Jackie Walters has moved three of the biggest and heaviest mountains one could ever experience – two breast cancer diagnoses, pregnancy loss, and the news of infertility. Yet, she still stands tall with strength and grace. A DIVA – Dedicated. Innovative. Victorious. Amirable – by her definition. Bravo TV’s Married to Medicine star and OB/GYN has not only fought cancer as both a doctor and a patient, but founded the 50 Shades of Pink Foundation, to provide to other women moving mountains too. Read more about Dr. Jackie’s journey and how she couldn’t put up a fight with tears in her eyes.

Tell us a little bit about your foundation, 50 Shades of Pink, and its dedication to treating inner and outer beauty of breast cancer patients and survivors.

I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer twice. The first time was about 10 years ago and then shortly after that I was diagnosed a second time, which was a little shocking because we were told after chemo, radiation and surgery the first time, that the chance of it ever coming back was three percent. And I of course went through chemo and radiation [again], still worked and maintained a healthy lifestyle because it really was what I needed to get through all of that and still remain whole. During my chemo, I found that I would dress up; and then I found myself helping other ladies in the chemo to turn their scarves to this side or maybe do this or do that. So my feeling good was kind of where the theme came from, “if you look good then you will more than likely feel good.” We also know from research that if you feel good then you do good because you release all of the endorphins and it just makes a difference in your whole immune response.

So, with 50 Shades of Pink, I looked around and we had Susan G. Komen and in Atlanta there’s It’s The Journey Inc., and all of these different breast cancer foundations who would make sure that you had the important things like getting mammograms, and the ability to get to chemo but nobody really tapped into the part that is “woman” — in that is we lose our hair, we lose our breasts, everything that makes you feel like a woman — no one was really helping with that part. When Fifty Shades of Grey came out, I said “you know what?” breast cancer has so many colors and I don’t mean race; some women are diagnosed with this and they have to go through these things, and then some women are diagnosed very early and may not have to do much. So every ribbon told a different story, every shade of pink was in that whole spectrum.

For my patients diagnosed with breast cancer; I wanted to just spend an hour on the phone with them outside of the office, or at dinner just talking to them about the journey because it is a journey. And then I would give them a gift when they left, which was finger nail polish because during chemo your fingernails turn black; it just doesn’t feel cute at all. So I would do fingernail polish and lip gloss because you can have absolutely no makeup on and as a woman, you can put a little lip gloss on and you just feel better because you look better. I would give ladies just anything that I found during my journey that made me feel better. Eventually it got to the point where they would call me about their cousins or their friends, and my friends would call me about their friends, and husbands who didn’t know what to do for their wives. It became an important task for me to make sure that women [battling cancer] looked good. So with that plus my accountant saying you’ve been spending a whole lot of money on a whole lot of gifts, [laughs] and we decided that we would make this a foundation.

On Married to Medicine, your enthusiasm about fitness is bullhorn-loud and clear! How did you develop your passion for active living?

When I moved from Mississippi to Georgia, I connected with a group of girls and I’ll be honest; who didn’t look like me.  So coming from a small town in Mississippi, nobody focused on working out and eating healthy; eating fried and fattening food was just the way of life for me. And when I connected with these girls who were all into going to the gym — and you know, when you’re in Rome you do as the Romans. So I started working out and got really involved in eating healthy and I started losing weight and just felt better. I really got into fitness in residency and of course transitioning over into private practice. Then, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, it became a way of life for me; it wasn’t just about looking good anymore.

What I realized with my “Fit Is the New It,” is fitness is three parts — it’s your mind, your body, and your spirit. If you think about a tripod, if one leg is broken it’s not going to stand. For me, you can have a healthy body and a healthy mind but if you’re depressed, you’re still broken. You can be a happy person with a nice body but if the rest of the tripod is not working then you’re still messed up. So it’s a lifestyle for me and I’m trying to get the word out because with women – especially African-American women, heart disease, diabetes and obesity are interconnected. So I want to help women not only because I work with women every day, but I want the world to know that it’s not a diet for a period of time, it’s a lifestyle change.

Check out this clip of Dr. Jackie and her bullhorn!

Flip the page as Dr. Jackie discusses her personal battles with breast cancer, pregnancy loss and news of infertility!

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Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

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