Chef Jada's Wisdom

Chef Jada Fleming is a vegan chef here at Agnes Scott. She loves what she does and has a fantastic relationship with the students. She has worked here for eight years and used to also have her own takeout business before she chose to stay at ASC instead. Additionally, she is a breast cancer survivor. She was kind enough to agree to an interview for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Her Campus: So are you cancer free now?

Jada Fleming: I am cancer free right now!

HC: How long has it been?

JF: Two years! Two years now. I’m totally excited because I love telling everybody about getting checked, getting mammograms, getting colonoscopies, things like that…

Of course it was a shock- it was devastating to find that out. But, I’m a spiritual person, so I decided that instead of being down and upset about it, to turn it around- when you have lemons you make lemonade, right? So I decided to stay positive, to stay happy, and I think that had a lot to do with my healing. I had thought of it as a death sentence, and when I said, no, I’m not gonna die from this, I’m gonna live, I started saying, I’m gonna be positive every day- I trained my brain to think of some positive things in my life that was important to me, and after I trained I got better and better and better. So now, when people see my and they’re like “oh, you’re so positive, you’re always happy,” well, I’m living today like it’s maybe my last day. You may not see me tomorrow.

I don’t believe in the past...because the darkness of your past blocks the light in your future, and also too I don’t live for tomorrow, I don’t plan for tomorrow because anything could change in a blink of an eye. My plans… always change, so...now it’s a goal... I’m gonna hit the goal but if I don’t, it’s okay….What I try to tell people that’s what makes me happy: living for the moment and being happy for that moment, because you know, happiness is a choice...When you wake up in the morning, and you look in the mirror, and you say, I’m happy, I’m beautiful, i’m alive, I have everything that I want and I need right now. When you’re happy, everything starts to fall into place, you’re in your bliss at that time, you know, you’re saying, okay, I choose to be happy today, because just as much energy that you would choose to be mad and angry, you can put that same energy into being happy, right?

HC: Is that what you would say to people who are struggling with a loved one’s diagnosis with breast cancer?

JF: Oh, of course! I mean, you have to be their light when their light starts to fade. You have to be back in there to spark it, you know what I’m saying? You have to let them know, your light is fading, and I’m here to help you light it back because I can’t see without your light, and you can’t see without mine. You know, that’s what you tell someone- I need you, so let’s fight together on this, let’s fight together. Not letting them fight [on their own] or their light will just go out. Because that darkness that they’re in right at that time is something is so devastating and so hurtful, that sometimes they’re going down, and down, and down into the cave, and it’s getting darker and darker, and they don’t know how to come back.  But you, with your light, just reach and grab them back, just say, listen, I have a light, we’ll go into the cave together, not you by yourself. I know you’re hurting, I know you feel bad, but, I’m your light and I’m gonna help you light your light back up, you know what I’m saying?

HC: A lot of people, I think, want to help, but don’t know how, is there anything specific that you found helped you that you think people should know?

JF: Just, sometimes be quiet and just be there. If you can’t talk to them, or tell them anything because you don’t know how, your presence is more powerful than anything... when you can’t say anything, you’re there doing this (she takes my hand)....You’re holding their hand, you’re letting them know, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to help you, but I’m here. Even if you wanna talk, if you wanna vent, if you wanna cry, if you wanna laugh, I’m here... a lot of people think, I don’t know what to do. You don’t have to do anything. Just be there, you know? If you can make their bed, if you can bring them a cup of tea, or bake some cookies, or even if you don’t do anything, the fact that you’re sitting there with them....[And you tell them,] Well I just wanna be with you... You don’t have to be here alone when your light’s fading, I’m here.

HC: So, why do you think Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important, and how has it affected you?

JF: You need to know your breasts like you know your girls. You know, you know your girlfriends, you know what makes them tick, you know what makes them happy, you know what makes them feel better, and stuff like that- that’s what you need to know with your breasts...And you every month go to do your breast check and you find a lump and it hurts, these your girls! You know what I’m saying? You wanna know them! You want to find out what’s going on with them because one little thing can turn into something bigger, it can spread, quickly- that’s why I feel it’s important that people are aware of our bodies, our ovaries, our vaginas, our breasts, you know?...

Self love is the most powerful love out there. It’s when you loving yourself, and you taking care of yourself, because health is wealth, and when you’re healthy, you’re wealthy, you know? People are looking for financial wealth. What about your health? That’s more wealth than anything. You loving you, you caring about you, and caring about your body, is more powerful than any other love out there that anyone can give you. I love myself right now so much that I’m jealous if I share myself with someone else. I am, I’m jealous! I’m like, wait a minute. Now, time is a hot commodity right now, and time is money, I mean, I ain’t got much of it to give away so what makes you feel you are worthy and valuable enough to deserve my time? It’s gotta be an asset, it’s gotta be worth it for me, you know. So, I love myself where I don’t like sharing me. I know I need to, I have to, I gotta, you know socialize, but I’m very selective with who I’m social with...

HC: So, was the Agnes Scott community supportive through your diagnosis?

JF: That’s so funny you said that. No one knew until I got back to work...It’s like, I wouldn't tell anybody that I was sick because I want people to see me happy all the time and I’m marvelous in spite of  what I’m going through, and I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, so I don’t think, I know that if I told people, I would have had the support that I wanted and needed, but I had just enough with my family and my friends, I didn’t need another pile of people on my plate with the people I was dealing with already and they got on my nerves! (she laughs)...No, it’s just that I deal with the public Monday through Friday, and it’s Miss Jada, Jada, Miss Jada, Jada, Jada, you know, a lot of people and their energy- it comes to me and it drains me, and I have to recharge my batteries, because even though I love people and I care about people, I don’t want everybody around me when I’m off, because I need to recharge...You know, I’m quite sure they would have been supportive, but they probably would have gotten on my nerves at the same time, you know, no disrespect.

HC: Is there anything else you want to tell the Agnes Scott community?

JF: Please, please, take care of yourselves, get your breasts checked. I know studying and these projects that you have to do, and everything that you have to do, but get your rest and eat right. Don’t just snack on the cookies and the cakes and the pies and stuff, because those things is what’s gonna make you tired, lethargic, and angry, and not be able to do right- eat well, get your rest. And know your girls [breasts], you know what I’m saying? Know your girls, that’s what you have to do. And if you see another [woman] and she looks down and she’s depressed and she looks hurt, or whatever, we don’t know what she’s struggling with, her studies and stuff, be her light. Help her light her light, okay? Be her light. Let her know, if you need somebody to talk to I’m there, if you need a study buddy, do you need somebody to, I know you feeling homesick, and you miss your mom and dad and stuff, but you know, don’t go in the cave by yourself, don’t go in there by yourself. I got a light. If your light is going out, I’ll help you light your light, that’s what I need you to tell people, okay?

HC: Thank you!

JF: You’re welcome, and thank you!