Hillman shares 3-time breast cancer journey


By Sheryl Roadcap

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TROY — Members of the community, including Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC) oncology services and various business, non-profit organizations and Miami County city/county leaders, gathered for the second annual “Champions For Care“ event to hear the inspirational breast cancer journey of Jan Hillman. Attendees, on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 3, also learned about UVMC oncology services available to the northern Miami Valley area and how to help with fundraising efforts at a luncheon held at the Arbogast Performing Arts Center in Troy.

Hillman, a resident of Tipp City, the chair of the Breast Wishes Foundation Board and is a three-time breast cancer patient.

“I think you are pretty lucky here. You get lunch, you get to hear two love stories, and the trifecta of cancer — that’s me,” Hillman told the audience with a chuckle. “So, starting out, let’s start a trip going way back to 1986 … and I was in the middle of a self-breast exam, and I remember this like yesterday; I was thinking, ‘How in the world does Dolly Parton do this?’ (she said with a laugh) and it was at that very second that I felt a lump, and it wasn’t any smaller than a pea. And for whatever reason, I knew right away it was cancer.”

Hillman presented her moving story, that touched on all the emotions, with humility and a bit of comedy through a somber timeline beginning when she first was first diagnosed at age 34 in 1986. At that time she was married to her husband William and their three children were young. She noted that her husband was always very loving, kind and supportive, and told her they would deal with the cards given to them and that they would set goals, such as seeing their children graduate high school.

Her first cancer diagnosis was stage two breast cancer in her right breast. Hillman was treated with a lumpectomy. Eleven years later in 1997, another tumor appeared in the same breast. A PET scan revealed a second mass, both stage two, and she underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. At that time, she and William set a new set of goals, including planning to see their children graduate from college, go on to careers and be happy.

But then in 2013, a new family illness presented itself, and this time it was her husband William.

“And through all of this, my husband William was with me, tender, kind and supportive … and then fast forward to 2013, and William began showing signs of forgetfulness. And it turned out in 2016, he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, the same thing Bruce Willis has. … so he had a nine and a half year journey. He was humble. He was brave. And when he passed away four years ago, tomorrow, he had a long, long journey.”

Jan then went on to talk about the blessing of meeting her fiance’ Barry two years after William’s passing. Barry also lost his wife Linda four years earlier, but to breast cancer; his wife had also battled the disease three times. However, not long after the excitement of becoming engaged on Christmas Eve 2022, Hillman was diagnosed for a third time, which was revealed due to a test for separate health issue.

“(The doctor) took a biopsy and called at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night, and he said, ‘I have bad news.’ And I said, ‘I guessed that. When you have a gastroenterologist call you at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, you know it’s not going to be good news.’ And he said, “You have metastatic breast cancer in your stomach.’”

This condition is very, very rare, the doctor told her. Shortly afterward, she learned she had breast cancer in her skull (not brain), a rib, her thoracic spine, bone marrow and pelvis — but not her breasts.

Hillman then praised what she calls her health care team for her care-plan and various ways they work to help her feel her best.

“I cannot thank my (UVMC) healthcare team enough,” Hillman said. “And I could go anywhere; as a matter of fact, Dr. Chamarthy referred me to the the James (Cancer Hospital at The Ohio State University in Columbus) for a second opinion. And do you know what they told me? — They wouldn’t change a thing. Not one thing. And so, that tells me I am getting great care. But it is the compassion, the skills, the way the people at Upper Valley make me feel, because I truly could go anywhere, and also, I don’t want to travel. I don’t always feel like it.”

Also, during the afternoon luncheon, Amanda Musser, director of Premier Oncology Operations, spoke about the expansion and numerous programs available in oncology services, including clinical trials, at the UVMC Cancer Center.

George Lovett, chair of the UVMC Foundation, who welcomed all to the luncheon, spoke about UVMC Foundation’s purpose, which is to raise funds to help provide the best quality healthcare possible for those in the northern Miami Valley. He emphasized that all proceeds go to the treatment of patients.

Tuesday’s luncheon was sponsored by the Dugan family, which founded the John J. Dugan Memorial Cancer Fund. The memorial fund was created to support cancer patients. Brian Dugan, fund representative, spoke to the audience about ways the community and those in attendance can help support those battling cancer in Miami County. He noted their family established the John J. Dugan Memorial Cancer Fund to help people obtain great oncology service in Miami County.

“The UVMC Cancer Center provides great care close to home,” concluded Dugan.

For more information about UVMC Cancer Center services or to contribute to the UVMC Foundation, visit https://www.premierhealth.com Donations may also be mailed to the UVMC Foundation, 3130 N. County Road 25A, Troy, OH 45373.

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