American Idol’s Jax tells NJ 101.5: I have cancer
Former American Idol contestant Jax seems chipper. She's full of laughs. She's got big plans for a new song, and a new challenge — a marathon run to help children recovering from traumatic losses. Things seem good.
Wearing a poop-emjoi T-shirt in the New Jersey 101.5 studio Monday morning, Jax was ... well, Jax. Bubbly and upbeat and friendly.
"The last couple of months I've been going through a lot. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer," the 20-year-old East Brunswick resident, who finished third on American Idol in 2015, told New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea.
Jax, whose real name is Jaclyn Cole Miskanic, said she began feeling symptoms as she prepared for her Webster Hall show last spring.
"I was going through a lot, traveling a lot, living out of a suitcase. But I was waking up tired a lot, losing my voice and just kind of depressed and in a really dark place. My parents knew something was up because if wasn't normal," Jax said.
While she was grocery shopping, she said, she felt felt a lump in her throat and decided to get it checked out.
"But I'm like a bro when it comes to going to the the doctor, and I let it go, she said," When she did seek care, she went to an urgent care facility, at her father's urging.
Not a sinus infection
Thyroid cancer wasn't really on her radar. She thought she probably had a sinus infection. And the staff at the urgent care facility assured Jax it was unlikely to be anything serious.
"But if it makes you feel better we can give you an ultrasound prescription and get some tests done," Jax remembered the staff saying. The option made her mother feel better — and they moved ahead with the test.
She was eventually diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, a condition in which one's immune system attacks the thyroid, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is most common in middle-aged men and women but can affect any age.
"People don't realize how important the thyroid is. It's more important than the actual brain. It was messing me up emotionally putting me in a strange place," Jax said.
The Webster Hall concert was difficult for her, she said. She was in pain and was uncomfortable.
"My body was whacking out," Jax said. A couple days later she learned from her parents that doctors had found 18 tumors on her thyroid. A biopsy showed 12 were cancerous.
She said cancer runs in her family — her grandfather had thyroid cancer, and the surgery to remove his tumors cost him his voice.
One mistake, Jax told New Jersey 101.5, could cost her the "moneymaker" — the voice that, starting with her American Idol audition in early 2015, made her a star.
Telling her story, Jax was still smiling.
She called her doctor "cute." She remembered how, as she was being put under anesthesia, he played Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls."
The surgery was a success. All of the cancerous tumors were removed. She'll still need more tests and possibly treatments. She's still undergoing iodine treatment.
"I'm radioactive right now," Jax said.
The surgery left her with a scar at the base of her neck she describes as a "shark bite." Jax said her voice feels "raspier," and left her and afraid to hit certain notes.
But she can't stop talking, she said. She can't stop singing.
"But I think it will all go back to normal," she said.
On the run
"The only therapy I have is running and writing," Jax said. She's been working on her catalogue of songs, and training for the TCS NYC Marathon on Nov. 6. She'll run on behalf of Tuesday's Children, response and recovery organization that supports youth, families, and communities impacted by terrorism and traumatic loss, formed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Jax said she's never run a marathon before — she joked the closest she came was the Zombie 5K at Six Flags Great Adventure.
"I was running from zombies! That counts!"
But she sees finishing the 26-mile run as a dramatic way to "kick cancer's butt and cross that finish line."
She also plans to release a song around the time of the marathon.
"I am so ecstatic to be working with Tuesday's Children and I definitely encourage anybody who is reading this to donate to the project! I promise it'll be worth it," Jax wrote on a Crowdrise.com page she created for donations to her run.
She also apologized for not being active on Twitter in recent months.
"I didn't want to publicize what I was going through, but my team and family insisted that it was something I should share with the people that have stuck by me all this time. I know I have been totally MIA for a few months and I do owe you guys an explanation. You have been with me through thick and thin," she said.
More on her story is at her Facebook page: