JACKIE BULGIN LEADS ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL real estate teams in central Missouri – Jackie Bulgin & Associates in Columbia, MO. Her clients and colleagues know her as an effective, smart, action-oriented real-estate agent and leader in the business community. But Jackie’s determination and inclination toward success also served her well in her personal life, carrying her through not one, but three personal battles with cancer.
Having grown up at the Lake of the Ozarks, Jackie first came to Columbia, MO, to attend college at the University of Missouri. She received her undergraduate degree in mathematics and psychology education and taught at Columbia Hickman High School and Quincy, Illinois High School for 10 years.
Eventually, Jackie returned to college to work on her graduate degree and she was teaching mathematics at the university when she met her second husband, Lawrence Bulgin. Lawrence was a builder and developer and he wanted his wife to work with him, so he encouraged to obtain her realtors license.
“He had a construction company and already had his realtor’s license, so I got my license in 1979 and we started Bulgin Real Estate, which was a ‘mom and pop’ construction company and development company,” Jackie says. “We built houses, developed land and the real estate company to market the properties.”
Cancer Makes Its Appearance
The couple expanded the business in the years following their marriage, adding a condo development, office park, mini warehouse and a car wash. Jackie faced her first bout with cancer during this time, which involved cancer of the cheek in 1984.
In 1990, she and Lawrence decided to merge their real estate company with House of Brokers Realty, which is a locally-owned real estate brokerage company that had been in business since 1981. Jackie is one of six owners of the company along with Bev Curtis, Carol Denninghoff, Gary Meyer, Wanda Northway and Jeff Radel.
About 10 years after the merger, Jackie learned that she would follow in the footsteps of her mother, a breast cancer survivor, and her late aunt, who died of breast cancer when Jackie was young. Jackie’s cancer was discovered in 2001.
“My mother was a breast cancer survivor and she had a very aggressive form of cancer, so that put me into early mammograms,” Jackie says. “I went for my yearly checkup and the cancer did not show up on the mammogram or on the sonogram, but a very observant nurse saved my life.”
The nurse noticed some dimpling on Jackie’s left breast and she ordered a biopsy. The biopsy showed cancer, and Jackie opted for a double mastectomy.
She underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and then did re-construction in 2002. All the while, she kept her cancer battle very private. Thanks to her team, she would schedule her chemotherapy treatments on Fridays so that she could suffer the worst effects of the treatment over the weekend and be back on her feet and back at work by Tuesday.
“At the time, I didn’t want people to know what was going on because I didn’t want them to ask me how I was feeling. I just thought that would be a negative for me, so I didn’t tell anyone about it until I was completely done with treatment.”
Sadly, in October of 2003, Lawrence was diagnosed with Glioblastoma brain cancer. He underwent radiation treatment and was scheduled to start chemotherapy after the first of the year, but he collapsed and died suddenly in December.
“When he died, my whole world turned upside down and my work became extremely important to me,” Jackie says. “I had always been very involved in work, but it was even more important to me then – it’s where I put all my energies.”
Jackie and Lawrence had closed the building company a couple of years before he died, and she sold off some of the other parts of their business so she could focus more on real estate.
Unfortunately, in 2012, Jackie faced cancer yet again. She was diagnosed with cancer inside her mouth on the jaw bone. The required extensive radiation which resulted in the removal of a portion of her jaw. Her jaw was reconstructed in a two-step process; first by taking some bone from her leg and moving it to her jaw, then by placing a titanium plate in her jaw. In addition to all this, the extensive radiation burned the inside of her mouth, her taste buds and salivary glands.
“I couldn’t talk very well and it was a very rough five months,” she says. “I had wonderful support from my family and physicians, and my team again, picked up work for me and kept things going during that time. I couldn’t have done it without all that support.”
Jackie said that when she first learned of her jaw cancer, she felt alone. “I thought , ‘I’m the only one in the world who has this.’ But then I found out the surgeon in Columbia does 60 to 70 of these surgeries a year. Now I’m very grateful to be a three-time cancer survivor.”
Passionate About Business
Through it all, Jackie remained committed to her business and her clients. “I really love my job and working with people,” Jackie says. “I look forward to work everyday. It’s just fascinating because there are never two days that are the same, never two clients that are same.”
Jackie says it’s a joy to help people select a home. “You become a part of their lives because it is one of the biggest investments they will make in a lifetime. Whether someone is buying their first home, upsizing or downsizing, it’s exciting to be a part of a milestone in their lives.”
Not surprisingly, Jackie is surrounded by others who are similarly passionate about the business. The House of Brokers continued to grow, and currently has 85 agents. Jackie’s team has three agents in addition to her partner, Shannon O’Brien and associates, Nicole Waldschlager and Debbie Fischer.
Jackie says her passion for real estate and her entrepreneurial spirit come from her parents. Her father was a builder at the Lake of the Ozarks, and her mother led a craft novelty business. “They were always self-employed and had a great work ethic,” she says.
In addition to a passion for her work, Jackie considers herself blessed on the family front. She has a daughter, Paula Elam, and a stepson and daughter-in-law, Trevor and Denise Bulgin, all of Columbia. Her stepdaughter, Melinda Schumacher and her husband Rick, and their four children live in Olathe, KS.
During her spare time, Jackie is active in her community. She has been extensively involved in and was a charter member of the Regional Economic Development Inc., and she served on the Columbia Planning & Zoning Commission from 1979 to 1984. She also served on the Governor’s Council for Affordable Housing and as a past treasurer, secretary, vice president and on the Board of Directors of the Columbia Board of Realtors.
She continues to do some volunteer work for Phoenix Programs, a organization that serves individuals suffering from addiction. And she contributes to Honor Flight Network because her father was a World War II veteran.
Because Jackie’s mother and aunt had experienced breast cancer, she was vigilant from a young age about getting checkups.
Her daughter, Paula, has regular check-ups and recently had something show up that required an MRI. For now, her doctors are watching it. And her step-daughter, Melinda, lost her mother to breast cancer and her father to the brain tumor, so she’s also dedicated to getting screened.
My family and I are eternally grateful to my nurse and for her skills and expertise in finding my “needle in a haystack” tumor. Please tell everyone you know, breast exams can save a woman’s life, I know because it saved mine.
About the Author
Michelle Cox is a wife, mother and professional freelance writer/communications specialist in St. Louis, MO. She’s a regular contributor to stlouismag.com and an author for fiftiness.com (launching in September 2016) as well as their social media director. She also writes short stories and is working on her first novel, and she writes about writing on her website, michellecoxwriter.com, where she encourages other midlifers (not young, never “old”) to pick up a pen or keyboard.