Jillian Black grew up in the cancer ward. Her father, an oncologist, brought her and her siblings along with him to work often, especially around Christmas to cheer up the other children. It’s why, when she was called back in for more testing after a suspicious mammogram, her father comforted her with the probability that it was nothing to worry about. After a hard couple of years that included a divorce and COVID with three young children, Jillian remembers thinking, “I can handle this if I have to, but I really don’t want to.”
In October 2020, after further biopsies, Jillian received a call from her doctor at 9:15PM. Of that moment she says, “they don’t call you at that time for nothing, so I just knew.” Indeed, Jillian was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma at the age of 41, with a 6, 8 and 11 year old at home. Her eldest struggled with the news, asking at one point, “Mom are you going to die?”
Jillian forged on with six months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and six months of targeted therapy. Her community rallied around her- from meal trains, to card nights and help with the kids, Jillian felt supported throughout: “I was so lucky- my mom lives down the street, my girlfriends were my lifeline- I don’t know what I would have done without leaning on the people around me.”
Jillian also connected with other women going through diagnosis and treatment. It helped to be able to connect with those who understood exactly what she was going through. She notes that she spent a lot of time comforting others who struggled with her diagnosis, so it felt refreshing to be surrounded by a really honest group of individuals.
Of her entire experience with cancer thus far, Jillian is quick to note the positives, which include the incredible access to top hospitals, like MGH, where she received treatment. She also had the flexibility at work to be able to attend appointments and still care for her children. While she still feels like an “anxious mess” sometimes, she is grateful to be abundantly aware that she is strong and for the opportunity to show her children that she and they can survive hard things.
Her appreciation for the support she received is why she is passionate about partaking in Runway this year: “You need that support and not everyone is lucky enough to have it. Runway provides the support I didn’t need, but know is absolutely crucial.”