A Teacher’s Lesson

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Photo credit: Jennie Key Photography

On Thanksgiving Day of 2014, Jill Jubach returned home after a vigorous “pre-turkey” workout, ready to shower and prepare for the holiday. Jill was in front of the mirror when she something strange on her breast. But what Jill noticed looked much like a pillow crease, and since she had been wearing constricting work-out gear, she decided not to panic. She Googled “indentation in the breast” and immediately received a barrage of results related to cancer within seconds. She performed a self-exam in the shower and felt nothing, so she decided to wait until after the holiday to further worry.

A couple of days later, the crease hadn’t gone away and was clearly an indentation. Jill made an appointment with her doctor. Her doctor reassured her that even though she was young (37 years old at the time), and it was most likely nothing to worry about, she was going to run some tests to be sure. It was there that things escalated. Her doctor wanted her to make a follow-up appointment within the next couple of days.

Eleven days later, on December 17, 2014, Jill was diagnosed with Stage IIB Triple-Positive Invasive Ductal Carcinoma after a series of appointments that included mammograms, ultrasounds and other tests. She began six rounds of chemotherapy at the Zangmeister Center in January and underwent a bilateral mastectomy followed by reconstruction.

Jill, a fourth grade teacher at Tarhe Trails Elementary in Lancaster, worked throughout her treatment.

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Jill with her sons.

“For me, I had to work. I needed a reason to get up in the morning; I needed a reason to see my students’ faces; and I needed everyone to see me pushing through—not just my students, but my colleagues and my administrators and my own two wonderful kids at home. It was a perfect lesson for all of us…the going gets tough, and you just keep going.”

In 2016, Jill had been out of treatment for just around a year when Susan G. Komen® and the Dallas Cowboys put on the Star Survivor Contest. The mother of a teenage son who is a die-hard Cowboys fan, and knowing that she would probably never be able to take him to a game in Dallas on her own, she decided to enter her own essay that expressed how much this experience would mean to the both of them, never imagining that she would win. But win is exactly what she did, and in October, off to Texas she went.

The Star Survivor Contest was more than a game for Jill. “[The] most powerful was finding my voice to be able to speak out and help somebody else down the road, or maybe encourage somebody, or inspire someone to go home do a self-exam. Know your own body, know what you need. Cancer didn’t have me. I have it, and I’ve got it under control.”

Jill refuses to let her experience with cancer to define her life. She continues, instead, to focus on her family, her friends, and her students. Jill learned very quickly when faced with cancer and treatment that being present in every moment is so important. She pointed out that so often you see people living through their screens—whether it be through social media, texting, or even cameras—to the point that sometimes they aren’t taking the time to truly experience and enjoy those irreplaceable moments with their loved ones. She encourages people to immerse themselves in experiences, to make as many memories they can, and never to take their time with others for granted.

If there is another message about which Jill is passionate, it is educating women beyond just awareness and exemplifying Komen’s More than Pink message. While women are aware of the risks of breast cancer and looking for lumps, some women still are unaware of exactly what they are looking for when doing a self-exam. Komen’s self-awareness message encourages women to know their risk or family history, discussing with your doctor which screening rests are right for you, knowing how your breasts look and feel (Eight Warning Signs); and making healthy choices.

We are excited to announce Jill Jubach as a Co-Honorary Chair in the Komen Columbus Race for the Cure. Please join her and her team, JJ Crew, on May 20, 2017 as she continues to educate, celebrate, and live each day to the fullest! Make a donation to Jill’s team.

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