Jill Conley was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31. Only six months into her marriage, she and her husband had to go through the horrors of chemo, radiation, a double mastectomy and a problematic reconstruction before she finally entered remission. Now 35, she has been diagnosed with incurable stage 4 bone cancer.
Photographer Sue Bryce was moved after hearing of Conley’s story, and offered Jill and her friends a trip to Paris. Bryce’s idea was to use her photographic talents to uplift Conley and cancer patients around the world. The documentary above, titled “The Light That Shines,” shows the beautiful work that resulted from that trip and the time the two women spent together (Warning: the video contains some strong images).
Watching Creative Live is something I have enjoyed for a couple of years now. The hosts seem like old friends and the content has always been right on the money. When Sue Bryce, Doug Gordon, or Sal Cincotta are on I pay a little closer attention. I not only find them inspiring and at times entertaining (Let Doug Jump), I am also captivated by their love for what they do.
When Sue Bryce came back on Creative Live with Hailey Bartholomew to speak on showreels and tell Jill Brzezinski-Conley story I cleared my calendar. Her story of breast cancer hit close to home this past year. I finally got a mammogram, my second ever at 42 and the first one was when I was 24. They found areas of concern. I went back for a total of 3 appointments and the last one lasted over 3 hours. They did a total of 15 scans and then a long ultrasound. When Jill commented that all dignity was gone, I could relate. By the end of the ultra sound the technician said, just lay there and don’t move around the doctor will be in shortly to speak with you. I laid there for what seemed like an eternity and hoped for the best. The doctor came in and started talking about mass in my lymph nodes and unusually masses on the other breast. I was still and all I could think about was my son. Was he ready for my to be gone, did I teach him enough, did I prepare him for life, and did he know how much I truly loved him. I guess at one point a tear spilled over. The doctor looked down and asked me why I was still in bed. I told her because the technician told me to stay here and not move around. She shook her head and said well that is weird. All of your masses are fiber and you are perfectly fine. Cut back on the caffeine and that might help them shrink a little. We will keep you X-rays on file for 10 years so next time we have something to compare them to and you don’t have to go through all of this. I was speechless, I muttered thank you and left.
Which brings me back around to Jill, to see a women so beautiful with such a passion for life being diagnosed with terminal cancer. To watch the video of her dancing and smiling, bringing love and light to something as ugly as cancer is inspiring. I am mesmerized by her grace and beauty. At the same time I feel a certain amount of guilt for squandering away my own time. For the days that I have hid away or didn’t accomplish anything. For the times that I didn’t tell someone that I love them or need them in my life. For running so hard from my past that I didn’t think I deserved to be happy. For basically forgetting to live. Jill’s story is a second chance for all of us. To embrace our life, family, friends, passion… To forget about what has happened and be excited about what is coming. To forgive and forget the little things; the childish fights, the grudges, the not talking, the judging others, allowing others to judge you and influence how you see yourself, and all of the other things that we cling to. The emotions that hold us down and stifle our life, love and creativity.
I truly hope that Jill’s story goes viral, that each person who watches it can take away something positive and find a passion that has been buried. To view more from Jill go to: https://www.facebook.com/