Beautiful Warrior Story: Jill Joly

This blog post is part of an ongoing series that highlights Hope Clothing GB’s Beautiful Warrior Program. Jill Joly was nominated and took part in a shopping spree because of all of you. The following is Jill Joly’s story in her own words:

In October or November of 2019, I was elbowed in the right breast while playing volleyball and noticed a small pea sized lump.  I am not sure if it truly went away or if I just didn't feel it, but in February of 2020 I DID notice the lump again and it was slightly larger.  I was going to wait until the activities I was involved in at the school where I teach wound down, but then Covid hit and I avoided going places to keep my family safe. The lump began to grow and I was diagnosed July 16th 2020 with Stage IIIB Invasive Interductile Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  The tumor was now 5.1cm or just over 2 inches. 

Fast track MRI, PET scan, Echo, port placement and chemo began on July 29th.  Four rounds of Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide followed by four cycles of Carbotaxol.  Chemo was completed on December 9th.  I lost my hair shortly after my 2nd treatment and was tired on the weekends and would lose at least one complete day just sleeping, but the positive was that my tumor was shrinking and by the end of the first four treatments (Sept 10th) the tumor had shrunk to the point that I could no longer feel it. I had a double mastectomy on January 7, 2021 in which they also removed three lymph nodes on my right side.  All pathology came back with no residual cancer detected and no lymph node involvement.  I then underwent 28 days of radiation treatment from Feb 14th to March 24th, 2021. 

I cried upon completion because my safety net was now gone and the people I was seeing on a regular basis who were undergoing a similar process were no longer going to be there.  Those emotions were tough to deal with for me.  I had my Survivorship meeting on April 5th and went over all the treatment I had undergone and what to expect going forward.  My journey was done during Covid in which I couldn't have anyone with me unless I was getting test results, but I was very lucky that I did not get sick and I was able to work throughout my treatments. 

I was blessed with a GREAT support system that consisted of my family (my parents, husband and two sons) and my colleagues at Freedom Schools which included Kathy Tennant who was the person who nominated me as a Hope Beautiful Warrior.  It wasn't easy and on those days when I started feeling sorry for myself, I remembered all those people at treatment who had bad reactions, were sick or whose cancer was much worse than mine. The ones that stand out include the two with lung cancer and the gentleman who was dealing with a new bout of cancer while also taking care of his wife whose dementia was advancing.  I also wanted to be a role model for my students and if they wanted to be in school I would be there for them to teach them. I had my July check up and they say cancer free as of now, but my white cell count is still a bit low but nothing to worry about as it is almost back to pre-treatment levels. 

I think about all those people who were being treated at the same time I was and those who continue to be diagnosed and say prayers for each and every one of them.  If you have been affected by cancer, you ARE special, you ARE prayed for every day! 

Thank you again! 

Jill Joly

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