A local basketball coach who inspired countless people with her courageous battle against cancer has decided to step down from her position. Kendra Jackson, who has been at the helm of the Station Camp girls program for the last 11 years, has announced her resignation as coach of the Lady Bison. Jackson says her cancer is still in remission, but the toll it has taken on her body has been too much.
"I really did not understand the effects a stem cell transplant could have on the body," Jackson said. "After talking to doctors, we all decided it was best for me to step away and focus on my health."
Jackson was diagnosed with mycosis fungoides lymphoma in October of 2012.
According to the National Cancer Institute, it is a disease in which a type of white blood cell becomes cancerous and affects the skin, and the National Institute of Health says it is so rare there are just 3.6 cases per million people in the nation each year affected by it.
While chemotherapy could suppress the cancer, a stem cell transplant was needed to possibly kill it.
Jackson's sister, Christina MacLean, was a match and the procedure was performed in the summer of 2015. The recovery was long and taxing, so much so that Jackson sat out the 2015-16 season.
She returned to the sidelines last summer and led the 2016-17 Bison to a 23-8 record. The team advanced all the way to the Region 5-AAA semifinals before bowing out with a 56-44 loss to Clarksville. Jackson was named the District 9-AAA Girls Coach of the Year as well as Main Street Media of Tennessee's Sumner County Girls Coach of the Year.
"Coach Jackson is definitely one of the strongest people I've ever met and she loves coaching more than anyone I know," said Station Camp junior basketball player Jane Deason. "I know it was tough on her last season having to sit out due to her stem cell transplant, but she came back this year so strong. She showed up to practices even when she was sick and gave the team her full energy no matter the circumstance. She really motivated us to give it all we had every single game and I think that's exactly what we did throughout the season, and that's part of the reason we were so successful."
In 11 seasons, Jackson compiled a record of 210-100 and her teams were 92-38 in district play. The Bison made it to the region semifinals six times under her watch.
Jackson is only 36 and said she still loves coaching. However, she also believes she needs to fully recover, and the time away will allow her to spend more time with her family - husband Bobby and two young kids.
"The team needs someone who can be all-in all the time," she said. "I've tried my best but it was really tough. Every couple of weeks my fever would spike and I'd end up at Vanderbilt.
I also had to think about my family. My children deserve their mom to be healthy."
Jackson said she will take nothing but good memories from her time as coach.
"Mr. (Art) Crook (Station Camp principal) has been unbelievable to me," she said. "I just didn't think it was fair to the girls or my assistants or anyone else for me to keep coaching if I wasn't able to be all in."
Jackson said she will continue to teach wellness, aerobics and weightlifting at Station Camp. She also said we probably haven't seen the last of her with a whistle around her neck.
"Hopefully in two to three years I'll be better and get a clean bill of health," she said. "Until then I need to focus on my health and get better."