WJSU General Manager Gina Carter-Simmers, a fierce advocate in the war against breast cancer who organized the Beauty of Cancer photo exhibit and Wig Project, lost her valiant battle Tuesday night. She was 49.
Carter-Simmers, a veteran Jackson State University employee, meticulously documented her story and those of other “survivors” – a term she chose to use rather than “patients.” She was diagnosed in August 2016 with aggressive triple-negative breast cancer and began chemotherapy shortly thereafter.
Eventually, she would become a staunch advocate for those suffering by creating the “Beauty of Cancer” photo exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art in October. It showcased women of all races and their scars from chemotherapy and radiation. As well, it displayed women in their professional attire.
Although she called the exhibit the “Beauty of Cancer,” Carter-Simmers said the title is really “a misnomer because there’s nothing really beautiful about cancer because of the physical and mental scars it leaves.” However, she wanted to inspire women and help them realize that breast cancer, labeling it a “bully,” would never rob them of their internal and external appeal.
During the exhibit, Carter-Simmers declared, “Cancer, I know it was your intention to have me hate God for allowing me to go through so much emotional and physical pain. But I have learned that the worst time of my life is the best time of my life. And I have lived. Lord knows I have lived. I have loved, and I’ve laughed harder as a result of you. Cancer, you couldn’t make none of this ugly because we are ‘The Beauty of Cancer.’ ”
Dr. Elayne H. Anthony, chair of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, was Carter-Simmers’ immediate supervisor and said the veteran broadcaster left an indelible mark.
“Gina’s professionalism was outstanding and her call to duty was legendary. Gina and I had several talks about her diagnosis of cancer. She was always upbeat and positive even on her not-so-good days. I will personally miss her smile, energy and dedication to WJSU and Journalism and Media Studies.”
L.A. Warren, media relations specialist for JSU, was hired previously by Carter-Simmers in 2010 as WJSU’s news director. He calls her a consummate advocate for women battling cancer and admired her transparency for allowing him to document her journey from beginning to end.
“Gina always displayed a warrior’s spirit. She inspired survivors to keep fighting and was admired by everyone. After she lost her hair due to chemotherapy, she wore her wigs but not her struggles. She labored until the very end and was determined to return to work at the radio station,” Warren said.
Carter-Simmers’ most recent campaign, the “Beauty of Cancer Wig Project,” was held June 14. The event collected and donated nearly 80 wigs to the American Cancer Society for uninsured women battling all types of cancer.
Below are stories of her journey and advocacy.
- http://www.jsumsnews.com/?p=27211 (Diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, WJSU station manager will exhibit ‘beauty’ scars)
- http://www.jsumsnews.com/?p=32716 (At museum photo exhibit, survivors declare war on breast cancer ‘bully’)
- http://www.jsumsnews.com/?p=36133 (WJSU will pamper all women with makeovers, give wigs to survivors during cancer project)
- http://www.jsumsnews.com/?p=36178 (WJSU’s ‘Beauty of Cancer’ collects nearly 80 wigs for uninsured women with hair loss)
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.