Lung Cancer Awareness Month is over. Or is it…? It doesn’t matter how you got this terrible disease. But when a person says they have lung cancer the reaction is: Did you smoke? To that end, I learned to turn around their question/statement to “Can I ask you why you asked that?” moment. It goes back to that nagging stigma that so many of us are trying to change.
Nuts and bolts—the necessary connection….another way to think of this metaphor: researchers, patients, survivors, oncologists need advocates to help make the connections they can’t do on their own. We are the nuts (no pun intended); they are the bolts.
Thusrday August 11th
Visit Hazel + Dot for their Sip & Shop event, and shop for your favorite things!
Hazel + Dot
3714 Henderson Blvd. (near Fresh Market)
Tampa, Florida 33609
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Three years ago our lives changed. At age 28, our daughter heard the words “lung cancer.” And nothing has been the same since. It’s been 2 years since Jillian has been gone and we’re still in a limbo of sorts.
Jillian was the youngest, had 2 older brothers, she was a military brat and an amazing nurse. One day in June 2012, we all sat in a doctor’s office and heard that she had cancer. In the aftermath of hearing those words we all retreated: quiet, scared, angry, confused, hopeful and in denial. Jill somehow found strength and acceptance in the blink of an eye. She stopped working shortly after her diagnosis and moved up to Tampa, leaving her life, her career and friends behind. Ahead of her were grueling tests and treatment. She knew participating in a clinical trial would only prolong her life, not save it. Jillian had Stage IV lung cancer and there was no cure. We were faced with how to make the most of our time with our baby in the months she had left.
Being her mom was something I took for granted. Changing her diaper, feeding her, wiping away her tears when she was hurt, and cheering her up when she was sad. I never imagined one day she wouldn’t be here. With her diagnosis, she became our baby again. We held her hand, fixed her lunch, carried her stuff to and from the Clinical Research Unit (CRU) when she had treatment and pampered her when she got home. We tried to make her as comfortable as possible, treated her as an adult and let her make the decisions she had to regarding her disease and course of treatment.
It’s so hard when your child is diagnosed with a terminal disease. We’re helpless in fighting something that went so wrong inside her. We talked about bucket list trips. It’s so hard not to cry when your daughter is talking about what her bridal gown would be like and she knows that day will never come. Jillian was probably the best patient they ever had at Moffitt. From the outset, Jillian considered Moffitt as “her hospital”. She talked about how this experience gave her a different perspective on patient care. Jillian was going to be a different, better nurse because of cancer. We took small trips to Miami for football games and brain scans. Jillian got a whole new wardrobe when her clothes no longer fit her. She never complained about the things she knew would never change. We held in our fears of loosing her and Jill held in the fact that she knew her time here was short.
She fought hard and did well for the first 6 cycles of chemo and clinical trial drug. Shortly after the trial ended, things started to take a turn for the worse. She went into hospice care for pain management. Things started to improve but for only a short time. The tumors in her liver grew just a fraction and would no longer process the chemotherapy drugs. Shortly after her 29th birthday Jillian started getting weaker as the disease ravaged her body. I was staying up all night with her, watching TV, watching when she dozed, helping her to the bathroom, making her comfortable and hoping that she would last one more night.
It happened so suddenly. She couldn’t get comfortable. It’s called “active dying.” We took her to Hospice House to help her. They put her on a medication that would help lower her ammonia level, clear out her body and help her stay alert. At the same time we had to have her sign a DNR – so that when the time came, she could let go. And it happened very quickly.
Shortly after loosing Jillian, I founded Jillian’s Dream, an organization that works to raise awareness and research funds for this insidious disease. I needed an outlet for my grief and tremendous loss. So I decided to be the voice that was Jillian’s. I wanted to speak out about our loss and that we needed to change people’s perception. I felt that what we went through was unheard of. Jillian was so young, a never smoker and displayed no symptoms. I wanted to tell her story and do something about lung cancer. I thought the way to get people’s attention and raise awareness was to provide a event that was as exceptional as Jillian was. Jillian and I had a few conversations before she passed and she wanted me to think outside the box. In 2014 we launched our website and social media presence. We created an event: Rappel for lung cancer research. Each person who signed up met a fundraising minimum, got the once in a lifetime opportunity to rappel down 13 stories. On December 13th, 60 people: participants, volunteers, on-air personalities, VIP’s and wounded warriors rappelled down the Island Center building on Rocky Point Drive raising over $136,000! It was overwhelming.
In January 2015, I was honored as a Lightning Foundation Community Hero. We decided to give the award funds to Moffitt’s Lung Cancer and Adolescent & Young Adult Centers of Excellence. Planning for this year’s 2nd Annual Rappel for lung cancer research that will be on December 12, 2015 is already in progress.
Because of Jillian, I have become an advocate for the unseen, under represented population who are between 18 & 40, healthy, never smokers. They don’t qualify for early screening. By the time they are diagnosed, it’s late stage, the options are limited and the prognosis is poor. For the most part they don’t participate in clinical trials. And they are dying. In Jillian’s memory, I’m committed to change that as the President of Jillian’s Dream and as a partner with Uniting Against Lung Cancer. I believe that one day, we will find the answer and a cure. Together, we are stronger than lung cancer.
– Ros Miller
Jillian’ Mother and founder of Jillian’s Dream.
Along with the event’s success, Ros Miller was recognized during the January 29, 2015 home game of the Tampa Bay Lighting as a Lightning Foundation Community Hero for her dedicated career of volunteering in the community and being the force behind Jillian’s Dream. The Community Hero Award comes with a $50,000 grant from Jeff Vinik, President of the Tampa Bay Lightning and his Foundation, which, in turn, will be presented to Moffitt Cancer Center’s Lung Cancer Center of Excellence and also to the Adolescent and Young Adult Center of Excellence for young people facing cancer.
See the article on the Tampa Bay Lightening website ».
TAMPA, January 29, 2015 – Jillian’s Dream, a Tampa based non-profit initiative, working with Over the Edge USA raised over $136,000 for lung cancer research in their inaugural rappelling fundraiser! The 2-day event at the Parmenter Realty Partner’s Island Center sent 60 participants down the outside of the 13-story office building on December 12 & 13, 2014.
“We wanted to provide that once in a lifetime experience for our participants,” said Ros Miller, President of Jillian’s Dream. The funds raised go to Uniting Against Lung Cancer (UALC), a non-profit organization that awards grants for innovative research.
In memory of Jillian Miller, a non-smoker who lost her battle at age 29, Jillian’s Dream is fighting the stigma associated with lung cancer and raising awareness and critically needed funds for research. “Lung cancer is the least funded, the deadliest, and most misunderstood cancer. With the help of Over the Edge (OTE), we were able to provide a thrilling, empowering, and unforgettable experience,” shared Miller.
Media coverage and participation was incredible. Five on air personalities from media sponsor WTSP descended besides Marketing Directors from newsprint sponsor, The Tampa Bay Times. Additionally, Daredevil Reko Rivera, an American Ninja Warrior contestant, along with Batman, Spiderman, and the Tampa Bay Lightning Thunderbug excited the crowd. Inspiration came from members of VetSports when 6 wounded warriors took their turns as well.
By Robbyn Mitchell – Times Staff Writer
“It was such a shock,” laughed the 59-year-old mother of three from Tampa. “She told me to let go of one hand and then the other. I was just hanging there by my harness.”
She was almost halfway down before the beauty and gravity of what she was doing dawned on her.
“On one side, I could see the ocean at Fort Lauderdale Beach; on the other side I could see the city. It was gorgeous,” Miller said.
Ninety people may have that same experience on Dec. 13, when Miller’s organization, Jillian’s Dream, hosts a rappel down the Island Center at Tampa’s Rocky Point to raise money for lung cancer research in honor of Miller’s daughter, Jillian, a registered nurse who succumbed to the disease in May 2013. Rappelers need to raise or donate $1,500 to go to Uniting Against Lung Cancer in order to qualify.
“We did the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. I walked and she was on medical staff,” Miller said. “She told me she didn’t want a walk. She wanted something creative. She said, ‘Go big or go home.’ ”
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Read the Full article at www.tampbaytimes.com »
When Jillian Blyth Miller, B.S.N. ’07, M.S.N. ’13, was a little girl, ER was her favorite television series. “Pretty much anything with surgery and patient care fascinated her,” recalls Jillian’s father, Arthur Miller, B.S. ’78, M.B.A. ’80. The Millers never imagined that the little girl in front of the TV would one day be an integral member of a critical care team herself.
After graduating from the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies, Jillian was offered a nursing position in the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit at UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital. She soon moved into the leadership role of charge nurse, later becoming the first nurse in her unit selected to train and work with neurological surgical
dialysis machines for neurological patients.Wanting to further her education, she began pursuing a master’s degree in the Acute Car Nurse Practitioner Program at the SONHS. It was during this time that she was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic adenocarcinoma.
“She was a ’Cane through and through. She was also serious about her career and oriented to personal, professional, and academic excellence.”
Jillian spent the next year waging a courageous battle against this deadly form of lung cancer, but she never stopped caring for others or thinking like a nurse. When she volunteered to participate in a Phase 1B clinical trial, Jillian shared with her family that she hoped the experimental treatment would not only help her but also make a difference for others in the future. Never a smoker, Jillian fought to debunk the myth that all who are afflicted with lung cancers are smokers. She also participated in her hospital’s Young Adults with Cancer group, sharing up-close-and-personal experiences about her illness and using her expertise as a health care professional to “make it better” for other young people.
Jillian passed away before she could attend her second UM commencement ceremony, but in December 2013, Art and Ros Miller accepted the Master of Science in Nursing degree awarded posthumously to their daughter. Also in attendance were her brothers, Jared and Daniel, and sister-in-law Amy. Being on campus together was not a new experience for the Millers, avid ’Canes fans who hold season tickets and travel from their Tampa home to Miami for the games.
“Jillian would have been full of UM pride today,” Ros Miller said. “When she was a child, no family vacation to Florida was complete without a trip to the U, her father’s alma mater. She was a ’Cane through and through. She was also serious about her career and oriented to personal, professional, and academic excellence. We are proud of her and honored to accept Jillian’s M.S.N. degree on her behalf.”
As a tribute to Jillian’s accomplishments and to celebrate a life that was unique and meaningful, the Miller family made a major Momentum2 campaign gift in her honor to support the planned SONHS Simulation Hospital. “Jillian’s life exemplified the mission of the School of Nursing and Health Studies,” Art Miller said. “The Simulation Hospital will educate health care professionals who will make patient-centered care their number-one priority, just as she did.”