My Promise To Jillian

Wow, where do I begin? This has been one of the most difficult years of my life; losing my best friend Jillian Scalfani to cervical cancer.  I will never forget the day she came home from the hospital in Boston and told me she had cancer. This thought had not even crossed any of our minds. She thought at max, the news would be that she would have to have a hysterectomy and would be fine.  Her youngest was 2-years old at the time and she was not planning on more children. This was the start of her three year battle with cervical cancer.

During this difficult time, radiation, chemo and several clinical trials had failed her.  She would often get emotional talking about her children.  She was fighting the fight for them and boy did she.  She knew that her youngest Joseph (Jojo) would be okay because his father Big Joe, Jayden and her all lived together.  He would take good care of Jojo.  Her fear was what about Jayden?  Jayden’s father has never been a part of his life and who was going to take care of him? After a conversation with Big Joe while Jill was getting a Chemo treatment, I realized he had no intentions of raising Jayden.  He thought it would be too much having to raise two boys.  Jill’s wish was to keep her two boys together but that was suddenly fading.  We had many conversations about where Jayden would go and who could care for him.  Her family is small and she didn’t have anyone to take this role on.  Being her best friend, single, no children of my own, I offered to raise him.  I wanted Jill to be able to focus on treatment and not have to worry about this issue.  Thanks to another family friend, we were able to meet with a lawyer and get affairs in place.  She questioned whether or not I was ready for this, and I reassured her I was.  I often wondered if maybe this was why I did not have children of my own, I was meant to raise Jayden.

The 2017 school year began and Jill was in hospice. I went to the house and got Jayden off to school on the first day, took pictures so she could rest.  This was his big day…officially a Haverhill High student.  I reached out to the school Day 1 to inform them of Jayden’s situation.  A couple days later Jayden moved in with me.  It was time.  Jillian was now at the Hospice House and unable to care for him.  I assured her that I would try my very best to raise him as my own and take care of him.  It is challenging at times working two nights a week but thanks to Kelly Mac we make it work.  She has been my rock during this whole process, A true best friend to Jillian and me. Kelly and Jill grew up together and now their kids are best friends growing up together, as well. Jayden chose to be by his mothers’ side during her last breaths.  Kelly’s son and his best friend, Hector helped him get through this difficult time.

Jillian had a memorial mass in her honor a couple weeks after her passing.  Her grandmother, “Nana Big Hair” and I delivered the bread and wine to the priest in honor of her.  An older woman sitting in the front row saw me crying and handed me a note.  It read,“Tears are God’s way of melting a heart frozen in grief”.  I will never forget this woman and her kind soul.  She has no idea how much her words meant to me.

Jayden started playing football for HHS and had practice every night until 7pm.  This truly kept him going.  Keeping him busy was a big part of this process.  Now that football season is over, we will be checking out the Haverhill Boxing Club.  He has a minor set back with a knee injury.  He is basically growing too fast for his body and in physical therapy 2x a week.  I was super excited to spend Christmas with Jayden. However, it was a very sad day without his mother, but I did everything in my power to make it special for him. I surprised him with a trip to Disney World, where we will be joining Kelly Mac in March on vacation. The other surprise — a special gift in memory of Jill.  I know she is shining down and watching over us.  We love and miss you, Jillian!

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year! God Bless. Heather

Read Jillian’s touching letter to Heather here

 

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.