From Patient to Pageant Queen
Growing up, Jillian rarely got sick, so when she came down with a 103-degree fever and a double ear infection, her pediatrician decided to run some blood work. The results weren’t good. “I just remember my mom coming home from work and saying we’ve got to go to Connecticut Children’s right away,” Jillian says. At 13, Jillian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). She underwent six months of intensive chemotherapy and about two years of maintenance chemotherapy. It took a toll on her and her family.
Midway through treatment, Jillian suffered from a minor stroke, a rare side effect of the chemotherapy. She struggled to speak for the three days, but her voice came back on the fourth day, and miraculously, she had no lingering neurologic deficits. When complications occurred, Jillian had a simple response. “I knew I had two options: I could let cancer get to me, or I could get up and fight it,” she says. “So I got up and fought it.” Jillian entered her first pageant at 8 years old and had the dream of one day becoming Miss Connecticut. Now 22, she’s made her dream a reality, but it didn’t happen overnight. Jillian competed in the Miss Connecticut competition five years in a row before being crowned. That kind of persistence helped her as a patient and as a pageant contestant. “A lot of people would give up after the second or third time competing for Miss Connecticut,” Jillian says. “But I’m not like that.” Jillian competed in Miss America in December 2019 and was 4th runner up in the competition. She is passionate about using her platform to promote pediatric cancer research and awareness. Jillian has agreed to be a spokesperson for the Hands For Holly Memorial Fund. Jillian tells us what attracted her to Hands for Holly; “no one chooses to have cancer, but it’s organizations like Hands for Holly that are so important in making that journey with cancer a little bit easier.” Jillian believes that, “people don’t often think of being diagnosed with cancer, never mind all of the cost behind it, in addition to the physical, mental and emotional toll it takes on patients and families.” “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work alongside Hands for Holly in their mission to provide a safety net to patients and families while battling cancer.” You can meet Ms. Duffy and hear about her journey with cancer at Hands for Holly’s Guardian Angels Party on February 21st. Picture & backstory, https://www.connecticutchildrens.org/cancer-and-blood-disorders/from-patient-to-pageant-queen/, 30 August 2019