During a wedding ceremony, many people choose to say the traditional vows “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part,” but obviously, we all hope that we’ll never actually have to endure the “worse…poorer…or sickness” parts of these vows.
When Bart Conley and Jill Brzezinski-Conley got married, they didn’t anticipate what the future held for them. Just six months into their marriage, Jill was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, and due to a hormone-blocking shot that she took during one of her early treatments, she wasn’t able to have children because the shot triggered early menopause.
This couple that had their whole future to look forward to was suddenly dealing with chemotherapy, the reality of a childless marriage and not knowing how long Jill had to live. They battled with not knowing how they were going to pay their bills at times, but through it all, they had their love for each other.
Jill was a shining light to all who knew her. Even though she didn’t have children of her own, she treated her three nieces (Ruthie Conley, Skye Conley and Averie Brzezinski) as if they were her own daughters. She was definitely the fun aunt. Before her death in 2016 at just 38 years old, she wrote a journal for them full of things she wanted them to know and remember.
Skye Conley says, “Jill was really fun and enthusiastic. I miss that she was there to talk to.”
Although her nieces miss her terribly, her husband Bart misses her much more. He told TODAY’s Hoda Kotby, “Sometimes it feels like longer. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. I’m blessed that there’s a lot of videos, and I watch them all the time. For a while, just getting out of bed was tough for me.”
Marriage can change people, and Bart’s marriage and Jill’s battle with breast cancer certainly changed him. Before Jill passed, the couple set up a foundation called “Jill’s Wish” to help other people who were battling breast cancer with their expenses. So far, the foundation has distributed over $250,000.
Bart has also found a way to motivate himself to gt out of bed in the morning. He was so appreciative of the nurses and hospital staff that helped his wife that he has decided to give up his job in the business world and change careers in his 40s. He is now studying to become a nurse at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.
Bart says, “I want to be that nurse that the family can depend on, the patient can depend on, going the extra mile, which a lot of the nurses did for Jill.”
Has anyone in your life had to battle breast cancer? If so, how did this experience change you?