Remembering Christine

I met Christine attending my second Cervivor School in Iowa 2016. The moment we met, I knew she was supposed to be in my life. I felt an instant connection with her. Christine was facing another round of treatment and she was scared about this one. She shared with me her thoughts about going through it again and how her faith, family and friends were going to get her through it. She and I shared a lot that weekend in Iowa and remained in contact after the school. Christine didn’t know it at the time but, she had a profound impact on me and my advocacy going forward.

At Cervivor School we covered a wide range of topics and we were discussing what one person can do to start to make a change. We were talking about breast cancer awareness and how that movement all started. There was some frustration in the room as some ladies were talking about all the awareness that is brought on by the pink campaign. I happened to glance over at Christine and saw her visibly upset. What she said next changed my perspective about breast cancer awareness in general.  She showed the group photos of her coworkers supporting her. They were all dressed in pink shirts with a teal ribbon on them. She told us pink was her favorite color and she didn’t see anything but support and love from this group of who had made the shirts in her honor. She saw the ribbon, not the color of the shirt. It was in this moment, I realized how silly I had been over the pink ribbon. After all, it’s just a color that has long been associated with women. She and I talked about this particular moment and how that frustration was often misdirected. I promised her I would do what I could to change the narrative and I have tried very hard to keep my promise to her. One way was to write The Fight For Teal and White blog entry.

Christine didn’t feel the most comfortable advocating to the level some of our Cervivor school graduates do, but she did do it in her own way with her family, friends, and coworkers. She was truly a special lady who was taken from us far too soon.

Christine, my promise to you remains . . .

 

Paulette Apostolou resides in Illinois with her loving husband and two rescue Miniature Pinschers. She is the owner/designer of ThePartyDeeva.com and founder of Operation Teal; an awareness ribbon campaign she founded in 2016 after attending Cervivor School Louisville. She is the 2017 Cervivor Champion Award recipient Contact Paulette@Cervivor.org She is available for speaking/advocacy events. Read Paulette’s story here.

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