"I was very fortunate. You couldn't miss it. There was serious pain in my midsection."
What originally was thought to be epididymitis was diagnosed as testicular cancer when the 24-year-old Jackson was examined at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago upon being called up to the Cubs that September. Two surgeries were to follow, but 25 years later, the White Sox radio analyst on flagship station WSCR 670 AM remains cancer free.
Jackson has a first-hand appreciation for Major League Baseball's association with Stand Up To Cancer.
Baseball's Winter Meetings include an MLB.com Auction to benefit Stand Up To Cancer, which MLB has supported since 2008 as founding sponsor. Public relations representatives from all 30 clubs were inspired to act based on individual club members impacted by the disease, and they jointly organized the auction, which will be officially announced at a news conference on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with MLB staff.
Bidding closes at 9 p.m. CT on Thursday, with 80 baseball-related experiences ranging from private pitching and batting lessons with players to lunches with general managers to team bus rides and meet-and-greets with Hall of Fame players. The White Sox have three Auction items on the list.
There's a Spring Training Experience that includes meeting White Sox players, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Camelback Ranch and receiving two sets of four tickets to Cactus League contests at Camelback. There's a Slugger's Package that includes a Carlton Fisk autographed bat, a Frank Thomas autographed jersey, a Paul Konerko autographed baseball and photograph and an Adam Dunn autographed jersey. And there's a VIP For a Day that includes viewing batting practice and four premium lower box seats and parking for a mutually agreed-upon day.
All three auction items have an opening bid of $500.
The first surgery some 25 years ago for Jackson was to remove the cancerous tumor. The second one, taking place at the USC Norris Cancer Center after he returned home to California in the offseason, took out some 30 lymph nodes when they cut open Jackson's midsection to ensure the cancer hadn't spread.
Chemotherapy or monitoring the situation with regular blood work and X-rays were the choices at the time to check up on Jackson's health and make sure the cancer stayed away. Jackson chose the blood work route and managed to return to the Cubs for the 1988 season.
Coming back was quite a challenge for Jackson, who lost 25 pounds after the second surgery. He had the baseball skills, but needed that extra time to get his strength back. His return got an understanding assist from manager Don Zimmer, who came to Jackson during a Spring Training workout, knelt down by the outfielder and told him not to overdo it.
Aside from missing out on situps because of the scar tissue, Jackson felt as if he was ready to go.
"For me, it was all a surprise," said Jackson, who will embark on his 15th season as a White Sox broadcaster and sixth on the radio, of the cancer. "I never said, 'Why me?' More along the lines of, 'Why now?' I had just got called up and now I don't know where the future lies. Why did it have to happen right now?"
When first apprised of the cancer, Jackson put off the initial surgery to play the next road trip in Philadelphia and St. Louis with the Cubs after his callup. It always was Jackson's goal to reach the Major Leagues, but hearing from the doctor that he could die from this cancer certainly was eye-opening news.
"My focus before that was, 'Get to the big leagues. Get to the big leagues. Get to the big leagues. Get to the big leagues,'" Jackson said. "You still work as hard as you always have after that, but it puts everything in a different perspective.
"You are driven and have things to accomplish at 24 years old. You just don't stress out over the little things."
Although Jackson stands as a happy, healthy father of four, these past 2 1/2 decades have not been without a few moments of worry. It's a natural concern that follows even when you stand up to cancer and beat such an insidious disease.
"When you have cancer, the one thing that happens is any time a change or an anomaly goes on in your body, the first thing that comes to mind is: it's back," Jackson said. "My first one came out of nowhere.
"Over the years, there have been maybe four or five instances when you have concern where everything is OK. That's how any cancer survivor lives their life now. Not living in fear, but where there's some sort of development and you think, 'Uh oh.' You appreciate everything in your life a lot more. You don't take anything for granted."