When the smell of grilled chicken filled the kitchen at ADA Women’s Recovery Center in Galveston on a recent Saturday afternoon, it did more than whet the appetites of the residents. It also set the stage for a frank conversation about cancer, and gave a group of friends a way to honor a young woman who was no longer in their midst.
“We formed Team JEM after our friend, Jacqueline McQuinney, passed away from colon cancer,” Tricia Madkins explained. “Jackie was such a giving person, and we get together twice a year to share our memories and serve others, which was very central to her life.”
Team JEM combines their projects, which have previously taken place in Houston and Dallas, with education on preventing colon cancer. “Jacqueline grew up in Dallas, went to college at Prairie View and then worked in Houston, and had many friends in all those places, so we’ve moved our gathering around,” Madkins said. “This is our first time for Team JEM to come to Galveston, but we think Jacqueline would love having us help out here at ADA Women’s Recovery.”
Madkins, a registered nurse and health advocate, led the education efforts while Christy Melton and Len Gales spearheaded the kitchen team. “Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and it’s 90 percent beatable if it’s caught early enough,” she said. “Our main focus is talking about diet, because that is one of the most modifiable factors.”
The meal Team JEM prepared for ADA residents included grilled chicken, ad orzo salad with asparagus and artichokes. “For preventing cancer, a diet high in fiber and low in red meat is the ideal,” Madkins said. “Anything green is great.”
Along with the meal, the 15 friends and family members served up lessons in preventing and identifying colon cancer, with an emphasis on awareness of the risks for younger people. “Jacqueline was only 36 years old when she passed away, after her colon cancer metastasized,” her friend LaSandra Hollins said. “We work with the Colon Cancer Alliance, and use a lot of their materials.”
The Colon Cancer Alliance notes that cases in younger individuals are on the rise, with one in ten diagnoses occurring in people under age 50, the age when screening is usually recommended. They also advocate that African-American adults should begin regular screenings at age 45 instead of 50, due to a higher rate of diagnoses at an early age. “It’s an insidious disease,” Madkins told the dinner group.
William and Sherry McQuinney, Jacqueline’s parents, traveled from the Dallas area to take part in Team JEM’s project. “Jacqueline was a people person, and she loved to help everybody,” Sherry McQuinney said.” She believed in education — she had two master’s degrees and was working on her doctorate — so I know she would want her friends to be including education in their service.”
The women residing at ADA Women’s Recovery Center enjoyed a savory meal while learning more about the role nutrition plays in staying healthy. “I’m inspired by this group of friends who have found a way to make their sadness become a gift to others,” ADA director Ellie Hanley said. “It is a very tender legacy.”