Columbia State Student Fights Cancer, Pens First Book

Young woman standing by green wall
Photo Caption:
Jessica Stafford 

(COLUMBIA, Tenn. – Sept. 2, 2015) - - -
Jessica Stafford, a Columbia State Community College history major, is a writer, a fighter and a survivor. In her book, “My Side of the Story,” she shares her journey from a diagnosis of a medulloblastoma brain tumor at the age of seven to the present day when she attends college classes despite a recent reappearance of the cancer.

“I’ve met a lot of people who have lost their lives to cancer,” Stafford said. “When I was diagnosed at the age of seven, no one gave me a book and said, ‘this is what cancer’s about, this is what it is, this is how it is, this is what’s going to be happening,’ and I think that’s part of what made me want to write this book.”

Stafford hopes her book is encouraging to others who have been diagnosed because she feels that it would have helped her to read a story about someone who struggled but made it.

As a side effect of her treatment Stafford suffers a hearing loss in her left ear. She struggles with short term memory loss, so she can’t drive and has difficulty multi-tasking. She doesn’t let any of this stop her though.

Although she wants to teach history, Stafford dreams of becoming a New York Times bestselling author. Writing both memoirs and poetry, Stafford reflects her deep faith in work she hopes will be inspirational to others, particularly to teens.

Stafford has been praised by her professors who have seen her excel in class.

“She always lifted the mood of the workshop with her positive attitude,” said Beverly Mitchell, professor of English. 

Mitchell, who taught Stafford in a creative writing class, remembers, even in a poem titled, “Cancer,” which was published in the 2014 edition of the journal, “Perceptions,” she embraces joy over the struggles of the disease.      

You’d never think your life could go,
Just as quickly as the winter’s snow.

And now with each breath I’ll take,
A difference in the world I’ll make.

“My Side of the Story,” published this year by Archway Publishing, is available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and by request at local book retailers. This story of a young girl looking ahead to a fun-filled summer at the end of the second grade and being confronted instead with a possibly fatal cancer is true and genuine.

Stafford’s voice is one worth hearing. As she concludes the poem, “Cancer,” she announces to us all how she intends to live her life.         

So like a blue bird flying high,
I’ll spread my wings and off I’ll fly,
forevermore into the sky.

Stafford resides in Spring Hill with her parents, Debbie and Jesse Stafford, Jr. and her brother, Lee, a senior at Spring Hill High School. She said they provide support and encouragement as does her church family at Parkway Baptist in Columbia.

A Knoxville native, Stafford also thanks her church family there as provided much support during her treatment.

Stafford plans to graduate from Columbia State this fall. She also has plans to begin working on her second book. 

Picture of book cover
Photo Caption:
Cover of “My Side of the Story” 

Jessica will hold two book signings:
September 25, 2015; 6 - 8 p.m. Barnes and Noble (1701 Mallory Ln, Brentwood, TN 37027)
October 10, 2015; 12 - 2 p.m. The Old Curiosity Book Shop (12 Public Square, Columbia, TN 38401)

Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee’s first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, one of the largest higher education systems in the nation. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.

Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. We offer associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit us online at tncommunitycolleges.org.

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