G'Day Jill, Goodbye MM! - Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

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G’Day Jill, Goodbye MM!

Washington D.C. 5K Walk/Run

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is delighted to recognize team G’Day Jill, Goodbye MM! as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2016 MMRF Team for Cures: Washington D.C. 5K Walk/Run.

G’Day Jill, Goodbye MM!

Posted October 2016

Joy was a newlywed when her sister and best friend Jill was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  She immersed herself into an MM support group, trying to learn all that she could.  She often thought, “This couldn’t really be happening to my sister, could it?” She hoped to wake up any moment to realize it had all been a nightmare, but it wasn’t.

Joy recalls trying to find the start of the race at West Potomac Park early one November morning in 2006.  As a 30+ year veteran of TV news and sports production, she had participated in countless events like this.  It was clear upon their arrival; the event was truly in its infancy.  That aside, their message to their friends and loved ones was clear.  Jill was fighting the fight of her life and by donating to the MMRF, they believed that each donation could bring them closer to the next treatment option that could make a difference in her life.  It was a race against time, and a race they were determined to win together!

“Over the years, we’ve watched kids host lemonade stands, friends yard sales and email campaigns. We’ve had friends donate their hair, platelets and blood. We’ve watched basketball coaches and Cub Scout leaders bring their message to the masses and join in our annual walks. Through it all, we’ve always said that no donation is too small, so when you realize our team has raised nearly $100,000, you have to feel the gravity of the accomplishment! We are not backed by any company or supported with matching funds. These are many small donations amounting into a 6-figure proclamation of determination! Team “G’day Jill, Goodbye MM!” has endured, expanded and bonded over a love and dedication to the woman we fight for,” says Joy.

Since Jill’s diagnosis in the fall of 2005, she has endured countless tests, 3 different courses of chemo treatments, a failed stem cell transplant, numerous platelet transfusions, endless painful bone biopsies, and seemingly unending blood draws.

“For those who know my intensely private sister, you know that she is a woman of few words. When she addresses our team each year, the emotion is so raw and honest, it’s life changing,” says Joy.

Many in their circle are cancer survivors themselves.  Many have other medical issues of their own.  But each year, they steadfastly come out in support of Jill and all myeloma patients.  It’s that spirit that has always made Jill proud of the team’s strength and spirit, openly thanking her friends and neighbors for taking the time to come together on the second Sunday of November to share their energy.   Jill says the power of community & friendship is always the best medicine, better than any chemo treatment! Better still, Jill’s daughter Erin adorned their tent one year with a great quote that truly now sums up Jill’s perseverance, “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

“No one prepares you for your Mom being diagnosed with cancer, especially not one as aggressive and unrelenting as multiple myeloma. But MM hadn’t met a force like my Mom before. I was 13 when my Mom was diagnosed. Watching her go through this has shown me that anything can happen in your life & based on a positive attitude, you can affect the outcome, no matter the odds. Watching all the friends & family that have supported us each year gives EACH of us hope. And knowing that they will truly do anything for you to help, is just amazing,” says Jill’s daughter, Erin.

The team name derives from two significant things to the team.  Jill’s husband Ian is from Australia and “G’day” is their standard greeting!  When Joy had to create a team name, she wanted something that would embody both Jill’s personality and their carefully censored dedication to not only getting her into remission, but kicking cancer’s proverbial behind out the door!

Being given this award is a humble reminder that the team has not only accomplished a great deal as friends, neighbors, and family coming together with a  goal of raising funds AND awareness about this cancer, but is also a reminder that they cannot let up in their efforts.  Too many friends they have made over the years at the Washington D.C. race are now only with them in spirit as they have already lost their fight to this disease.

Over the years, Jill and her family wanted to ensure that the team was capitalizing on an opportunity to truly share and educate the members about the disease itself.  Jill’s kids have helped to educate a newer generation not only about MM, but about how family and community can come together in a cooperative spirit that has truly endured and blossomed over the years.   There are families and other cancer survivors on the team who show up every year to contribute to their set up and help in any way they are asked.  “Team “G’Day Jill, Goodbye MM!” embodies the good in many and spirit in all of us,” says Joy.

Jill’s daughter Erin adds,

“This experience has changed so many things for me & my brothers, but what I can speak to personally is how refreshing it is to get together every year with all these amazing people to actually celebrate something around a disease I despise. MMRF makes the process of the event an enjoyable one and it gives us hope that my Mom & other families have more options today than ever before.  To see all the changes that have occurred and the advances that have been made in new medicines is extraordinary. As a (veterinary) medical student, I appreciate even more how you can’t take anything for granted and you need to make the best of every situation.”

Jill and her family are also very grateful to the expertise and quality care her oncologist, Dr. Dipti Patel Donnelly, MD of Virginia Cancer Specialist, has provided over this past decade.

“While many of us are truly dedicated in our professions, I think we all have learned the most valuable lesson about life’s fragility and the love we need to share with one another.  I didn’t think it was possible to love my sister any more than I already did, but as I watch her live her life under her terms, I am stunned by her incredible drive and fortitude,” adds Joy.

One of the greatest lessons this experience has taught Joy is there is no “right thing to say.”

“Just be there. Show up. Offer a particular type of care or running an errand, or just simply “show up” and be there for one another. I have sustained MANY life altering losses in my life, each & every time, Jill was the one who would come through with what I needed, even when I didn’t know yet what that was. I think our team is made up of people who know what being present for one another really looks like,” says Joy.

Erin adds, “Through my Mom, I have learned that Love is the best medicine and Hope is the best motivation.”

The MMRF works tirelessly to find a cure to extend the lives of patients, just like Jill, and is proud to honor team G’Day Jill, Goodbye MM! as the 2016 recipient of the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award, given at every MMRF 5K Walk/Run event to a person or team who inspires hope and shows extraordinary commitment to the MMRF. Jill has touched the myeloma community with her strength of character, her kindness, and her embodiment of hope.