It’s been two years, three weeks, and one day since Jill Brzezinski-Conley died.
You may not recognize her name, but in 2008 she was a woman who took on a role that she had never envisioned: a cancer warrior at the age of 32. That’s the day she was told she had stage 3 breast cancer.
She had been married to her husband Bart less than a year.
After a double mastectomy and two years of treatment, she was pronounced cancer free. The remission lasted a short two years. In 2012 the cancer returned, ravaging first one lung then the other and then invading her liver. When it settled in her bones, Jill was told she had incurable stage 4 cancer.
None of us knows how we’ll react to devastating news. We would like to think that we’d be brave and strong and think about helping others instead of ourselves.
That description defined Jill Conley.
She began a charity called Jill’s Wish. The organization’s website states: “The Mission of Jill’s Wish is to minimize the financial hardships patients face while going through breast cancer treatment so they can focus on recovery.”
In the year before she died Jill wrote about her work and the foundation, “I truly believe I am supposed to be a voice to help others out there going through cancer or any kind of body issues that make us feel so insecure…..I know I will eventually die of cancer, but knowing I did everything in my power to help change lives definitely leaves me with such a fulfilled heart.”
I wish I had known Jill Conley. The tagline to her cause was Rock What You Got. I’m assuming that phrase was based on the Superchick song of the same name that was released near the time that Jill was first diagnosed.
Indeed, rock what you got.
Here is an amazing video of Jill filmed when photographer Sue Bryce heard of Jill….her story, her courage…and invited Jill to Paris for a photo shoot during the time of remission.
Jill’s true beauty from within shines through and the scars are no longer what you see.
Laura Ungar, journalist for USA TODAY and the Courier-Journal, chronicled Jill’s story for the last 2 ½ years of Jill’s life. She sums up Jill’s essence beautifully:
“She showed everyone that while cancer could batter her body and steal her energy, it could not extinguish her light.”