To watch someone you love battle with a debilitating disease is something we all hope we won’t have to experience. For Lavar Jacobs, it was something he went through and that forever impacted him. Jacobs’ mother, Kim, struggled with breast cancer and kept many aspects of her battle to herself in the hopes of not stressing out her children. When she eventually passed due to the disease, Jacobs decided to do everything in his power to help other women fighting the same fight. He created a non-profit organization called Not Just October to not only increase awareness and raise money for research, but to also help those struggling with breast cancer be able to live a bit more comfortable. Based in northeast Ohio, the organization offers transportation assistance for doctor’s appointments, as well as help to cover all sorts of household chores, including lawn mowing and shoveling, and also pampering, like mani-pedis and massages. They provide a unique form of support and services to those who need it.
We spoke with the philanthropist and breast cancer awareness advocate about Not Just October, in what ways the loss of his mother pushed him to take his health more seriously, and why 31 days isn’t long enough to talk about this disease.
MadameNoire: What do you recall of your mother’s experience with breast cancer that drove you to want to create Not Just October? What was her fight with it like?
Lavar Jacobs: Seeing my mother having issues with day-to-day tasks such as moving around the house, doing normal household duties, and not being able to be the “mom” we knew her to be really lit a fire under me. Knowing the exact things that she struggled with gave me a crash course in not only knowing how but also understanding how to help women who are currently battling breast cancer. I know firsthand what it’s like to not know what to do or how to feel as your loved one is going through this terrible time. My mom was very guarded with her fight, she did not want to stress out my brother and I, but it got to a point that we knew it was worse than she was leading on. She was a very strong woman and fought to her very last day.
For those who haven’t heard of Not Just October, in what ways do you give back to/help the people who are dealing with this?
Not Just October is focused on awareness, aid, education and research. We give back daily by providing several services free of charge to women who are currently battling breast cancer. These services include but aren’t limited to lawn care, snow removal, home cleaning, transportation, financial aid, providing household furniture, eyeglasses, manicures/pedicures and so much more. Anything that a woman may need, if I have the resources available to make it happen, then it will happen. If I don’t, I make it happen by means of my own finances.
Do you educate and advocate for men as well? People often forget that men, though they don’t have breasts per se, have breast tissue and cells that can develop cancer.
We advocate for breast cancer all around. However, most of our seekers are women, so we haven’t had the opportunity to support a male in his fight, but I really am hoping to change that very soon. Obviously, I’m a man and know the importance of getting checked myself. I think a lot of times men are afraid to reach out because breast cancer is looked upon so much as a “woman’s disease” that it deters them. Men are invited to all of my events and they actually show up in numbers to support, so we hope that seeing that will open up doors for us to help men, too.
In what ways has your mother’s fight and having this organization encouraged you to prioritize your own health?
Knowing that cancer runs in my family, I make sure to stay aware of my own health at ALL times. I make great efforts to have a healthy diet and visit my physician regularly. I feel like if I am going to be spreading this message of health and wellness, I must take action in my own life to make sure that I am healthy. At age 32, I had my first prostate exam; it is very important that men get checked for that also.
What are your long-term plans and hopes for Not Just October?
I want Not Just October to help thousands of women across the United States who are battling breast cancer. I want this organization to become one of the most sought out breast cancer aid resources. Right now I am only active in northeast Ohio, but my vision is much larger. Expansion is definitely on the agenda for 2019. We have also purchased a vehicle, a 2018 Chevy Spark, that will be wrapped in Not Just October signage and taken on road trips across the country to spread our message. I also look forward to opening the Kim Jacobs Breast Cancer Resource Center in Akron, Ohio that will house all of our services and provide a space for women to come and meet other women battling the same disease. Our vision is large, we are in this together, and I look forward to being there hands-on and for years to come for these women.
To learn more about Not Just October or to pledge your support by donating, please visit http://www.notjustoctober.org and follow us on all socials @notjustoctober.