To Heather With Love

Dear Heather,

I wish you could see what I see. My best friend, the friend who ‘knows more than more’, who knows me as I know her. My friend who has always been then for me, and vice versa. Both a little stubborn, though I’ve eased up a little over my cancer diagnosis.

Ever since we met, I admired everything about you. The way you dressed, I always loved your Express wardrobe, pinstripe dress pants with a sleek collared top. There’s something about you that I’m sure you never saw. Do any of us truly realize what’s so special about ourselves?

Heather and Jillian

We knew of each other in high school, but became friends when school was through. I remember you telling me you thought I was a bitch because of the scowl on my face from time to time. But, little did you know all the hurt and pain behind it all, and I’m glad you looked past that, and we became friends, the best of friends.

We’ve been through so much together and still have remained at each other’s side. I’ve been lucky to have the same friends for over 20 years; I’m grateful to have you and all our friends. We get along great, and we’re always there to support, encourage, be honest and help one another out.

Heather, Jillian’s Best Friend

You’re beautiful, strong, determined, smart, genuine, caring, honest, lovable, and funny and you come from a terrific family. I admire everything about them too. I wish I had a family like yours; maybe they’re the reason you’re such a good person. They’ve molded you into a stand-up woman, and I know they’re proud because I sure am!

I’ve been dealing with cervical cancer for over three years, and it sucks. You’ve been there since day one, along with your family. Either just checking in, dropping off food, bringing diapers and wipes for Joseph, and anything that was needed you were there to assist. My cancer has been hard on us all; not just me, but my kids, family, friends and especially you. You offered your life if it were possible so I could be with my boys. We’ve cried and hugged so many times saying how unfair this is. But unfortunately, this is my life and my cancer isn’t going anywhere.

Now it’s June 2017 and I’ve tried it all. But none of the treatments are working. I want to live the rest of my life and be happy. My biggest fear was always leaving my boys behind. It hurts like hell. There are days where I wish God would just take me now. The pain of knowing you’re leaving this world without knowing if your kids will be okay is a death sentence itself.

I had my oldest son when I was 20 years old and shortly after I had him, his father and I went our separate ways. I kept Jayden away, for my own reasons to protect him, and I’m sure his father knows that. I know he knows I only want what’s best for Jayden. We still don’t have a relationship, but he knows his son is in good hands. Which brings me back to my best friend, Heather. My family is small, and some aren’t able to care for Jayden for various reasons. He’s a teenager preparing to go into high school, and he wants to be with the friends he knows after I pass.

Jillian’s son Jayden

When I pass, Heather has offered to raise Jayden and be his guardian. Knowing he’ll be with her puts my mind at ease; I know my family will be there to help and support as well. I think Heather and Jayden will make a great team; they’re both stylish, all about their hair, shoes, and snazzy. Maybe one day during one of his football or basketball games, Heather will meet a nice man, who knows? There are plenty of terrific men out there, and I just feel during a sporting event is when she’ll meet her potential next partner, and they’ll grow as a family.

Heather is very special in my eyes; I already know her and what great qualities she has to offer. I know she’ll do right by my son and raise him as I would, if not even better. It’s a lot to take on, there are truly not enough thank you’s or hugs and kisses I can give. But, I promise I’ll be looking down from above trying as hard as I can to guide you both or leave a sign letting you know I’m there.

It takes a big heart to do what she’s doing, but I wouldn’t expect any less from her. You will have my first born one day; he’s very special to me. I know you love him too and that love will continue to grow. All children really need is love and attention, no matter what their age. Never stop hugging them, kissing them, and praising them, this is what they’ll always remember. All the good memories and feelings we leave behind for them to pass down.

Heather, I love you more than you’ll ever know. When I do pass on, think of the fun times we had together, all the silly things we did that drove our parents nuts. Remember that life is short. Live it, be kind, say whatever you want to say, how you’d like it said to you. You’re in control. Look at yourself in the mirror every so often and remind yourself how bad ass you really are. You’ve accomplished a lot and I wish more women could see what you’ve become and how it’s achievable. Never doubt yourself. We have more power within ourselves than we truly realize. Feel it, know it; because I promise you it’s there my friend.

Love, Jillian

Jillian Scalfani is a young 34-year-old mother with an incurable form of cervical cancer. She and her children have a great support system when it comes to her friend’s and family. Read more about Jillian here.

Being a full-fledged Cervivor

I pulled into the parking lot of the Cancer Support Center in Indianapolis one icy January morning, with butterflies in my stomach. My social anxiety was on full-blown high alert as I sat in the car, staring at the building where other cervical cancer survivors were gathering for a Cervivor School event. I took deep breaths. I counted. I wished it wasn’t too early for a stiff drink. But I gathered my courage and walked in. And I haven’t looked back since.

After my whirlwind bout with cervical cancer in 2014, life went back to normal… for everyone else. I tried to find that normal that everyone else so easily slipped back into, but it eluded me. I pushed cancer, and the baggage that came with it, to the back of my mind. I left the online cancer groups that supported me during my diagnosis. I let my cancer blog grow cold and stopped giving updates. I tried to ignore the fears of recurrence that lurked beneath the surface. I tried to hide my tears as I lie awake at night, thinking of the children I so desperately wanted but could no longer carry. I smiled and stayed busy, searching for a normal that doesn’t exist after a cancer diagnosis.

Then one day, with my 2-year cancerversary quickly approaching, I received a Facebook message from Erica, a fellow cervical cancer survivor. She friended me and invited me to an upcoming Cervivor School in Indianapolis. I was hesitant, but intrigued by the thought of meeting other survivors face to face. I decided to give it a try, reassuring myself that Indianapolis was only a few hours from home and I could easily leave if I felt uncomfortable there.

That first Cervivor School I attended was a small, intimate gathering of cervical cancer survivors and caregivers. The other women shared their stories and, for the first time, I shared pieces of mine. Until that day, I hadn’t thought much about my cancer story and how it is intrinsically woven into the fabric of my life. I had spent so much time trying to ignore it, that I was overwhelmed with relief when I was able to finally talk about my experiences. I saw my story reflected in the eyes of the other women who had walked the same path as I. We laughed. We cried. We learned about the medical side of cervical cancer and HPV, and about effective advocacy. I asked questions, and got answers. I let my guard down, and found a sisterhood that filled a hole in my heart I didn’t even know existed. For the first time, I didn’t feel quite so alone. 

I went on to attend another Cervivor School in Charleston, SC and helped plan and attended one in Louisville, KY. I’m so grateful to have had these opportunities and look forward to attending the next school in Florida in June. I learn new things at every Cervivor School and enjoy spending time with other women who truly “get it”. It has not only helped me learn the skills and strategies I need to be an effective advocate for the eradication of cervical cancer, it has also helped me heal. I recognize the personal growth I’ve experienced over the past year and a half, from struggling to accept my identity as a cancer survivor to being a full-fledged Cervivor.

Read Jessica’s Cervivor story here: http://cervivor.org/stories/jessica/