Life hasn't been easy for Garina Fearon.
Fearon's childhood in Jamaica included time in a homeless shelter. Her life in New York was marked by a struggling existence as a single mom. She's been the victim of robbery and assaulted at her job as a prison guard. But things changed in a big way for her last month when she intended to buy a Powerball ticket, but wound up buying a Mega Millions ticket by mistake.
She decided to keep the ticket - and won $54 million.
Fearon stopped by "The Early Show" to share her story.
"When you hear that story described, does it seem real to you?" "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith asked.
"Um, no, still in shock," she said.
Fearon doesn't buy lottery tickets very often, about "once every six months," but this time luck was on her side.
She bought the winning ticket at her local deli, brought it home and didn't give it any thought.
"I just put it in my pocketbook," she said.
When the winning numbers were announced she didn't pay attention.
But luckily, two days later when she went to work, a co-worker looked in the newspaper. And as she started to realize the numbers were lining up, she started jumping.
Fearon hasn't lived an ideal life by any stretch of the imagination. After enduring homelessness and being a victim of assault, she is now paying it forward and will help give her mom back home in Jamaica a better life.
Her mother is blind in one eye and really is in need of help.
"It means a lot. At least I can take care of her and provide a medical benefit that she's unable to receive where she's at. And give her a better life," she said.
Before the big win, Fearon, a single mom, had changed her life on her own by going back to school and becoming a correction officer at Rikers Island in New York.
So will she go back to Rikers?
"At the present moment, not right now. It's a good job. Great people working over there. I met a lot of good people along the way, good friends that I still keep in contact with. But, for right now, I don't know. I took a leave of absence, and I'm going to think it over and make my decision at the end of the year as if I want to go back or not," she said.
Smith points out it may not be the best decision to go back, given the danger that comes with criminals knowing you've just won the lottery, and she agrees.
So what's the payoff?
She decided to take the lump sum of $33 million.
All of a sudden Fearon is talking about issues with taxes, trusts - not to mention her phone has been ringing off the hook.
"It has been. A lot of people calling. I haven't spoke to in years have been calling," she said. "In a good way, bad way, good way, bad way. Majority is good way."
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