Real Life

Astrologer Jackie’s next adventure

After a tough year, our fave star gazer is ready for a new outlook
Jackie Pope

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly’s much-loved astrologer Jackie Pope is no shrinking violet. At 61 years old, she’s streaked her hair shocking pink and is in the midst of putting all her furniture into storage so she can become a house-sitter for a year.

But while some friends and family have questioned Jackie’s lifestyle, daughter Elaine (38) is right behind her free-spirited mum’s latest plan. Four years ago, she watched Jackie follow her heart to Australia only to return with five dollars in her pocket, after she was forced out by the Queensland floods.

Free-spirited Jackie found it difficult accepting daughter Elaine’s help during her illness, but has no qualms using her expertise for her next exciting project.

“She’s amazing,“ Elaine begins. “I don’t know how she’s coped as well as she has.“ And, like all mums, Jackie just wants the best for her precious daughter. “I’ve always told Elaine not to compromise for love – and to have adventures.“ It’s a message that seems even more significant now for them both. Jackie’s a year on from chemotherapy treatment after she was diagnosed with breast cancer on her 60th birthday.

While her tumour was a grade one, it was aggressive – and had grown a staggering two centimetres in diameter by the time Jackie underwent a full mastectomy. Surgery removed all the cancer, but just when she thought she was in the clear, Jackie’s wound opened up and she got an infection. The hospital sent her home with a suction machine she had to use for four weeks.

“I called him ‘Mr Sucky’,“ Jackie recalls. “The first night, Mr Sucky got full so I phoned the hospital and someone said, ’Don’t worry – the district nurse will take care of it.’ But the next day, after the nurse took the dressing off and she couldn’t get the canister off the machine, she said, ’Right, you’ll have to go to A & E.’ I asked, ‘So you’ll take me?’ And she said, ’No, I’ve got other patients to see.’ I phoned Elaine in tears!“

Having the dressing off had, in fact, put the healing process back a step. And there were more bumps in the road when a scan also showed Jackie had an ovarian cyst that had to be removed along with her ovaries after having chemotherapy. One night, as she lay in a hospital bed, she felt close to the end.

“I was very low. I went into this place where I thought, ’This is it, I’m off.’ Then my dad, who’d died of cancer, came to me and said, ‘It’s not your time.’“ Jackie may not have lost her psychic gift but what she found most difficult was allowing Elaine to help her. “It’s hard to give up the role of mother. I remember telling Elaine how I hated intruding on her life. And she replied, ’Mum, you have to give that up! I’m here for you.’“

As Jackie’s only child, Elaine shares a special bond with her mum. While Jackie jokes about her own “appalling track record with men“, Elaine knows through her mum’s three marriages, including the first to her father, Jackie always put her first. It was only right that she acted as her advocate. “Mum couldn’t remember a lot of what the doctors were saying and it was hard for her to take it all in. It was good I was there with her and we could then discuss it in detail later.“

As Jackie watched other women return to work after undergoing gruelling chemo, she was thankful that she could work remotely for the Weekly and conduct tarot readings from home. And she still managed to have a bit of fun. Chemo even helped to get her moved near the front of an Adam Lambert concert!

Watching back-to-back episodes of Dr Who also got her through the rough days. She’s such a fan, she’d earlier thrown a Dr Who-themed 60th birthday party. But while Jackie thought her mastectomy might hinder her love life, recently it was her passion for the sci-fi classic that proved a romance killer.

“I went on a date and we had a lovely time until we came back to my home and I asked him if he’d like to come in for coffee. He saw my little Daleks from Dr Who everywhere, but when he spotted the Tardis in my bedroom, he shook his head and said, ‘Uh, no,’ and bolted!“

Throughout it all, Jackie has retained her sense of humour and can now even chuckle over the bad times. But what having cancer has taught Jackie most of all is that you don’t need a lot to live on. So she’s saving money to build a tiny eco house that Elaine, who works in the building industry, is helping to design.

Ever positive, Jackie says she’s enjoying the aftermath of chemo – she’s lost weight, her skin is glowing from what she calls the most “expensive chemo peel ever“ and her newly streaked hair is glossy. Elaine says her mum’s more confident.“I feel amazing,” Jackie beams. “I feel better than I did maybe two or three years before I had cancer. This is the best I have ever felt in my life!“

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