Who Inspires You?

By Kathy Korman Frey

In the last post, The Hot Mommas Project teamed up with WomenGrowBusiness.com to ask who inspires you. I wrote briefly about my sister in law. Here is the full story which I posted about on MariaShriver.com where I also write.  This is who inspires me:

Jill is my sister-in-law. She pretty much rocks. Jill is the person who makes milk come out your nose. She is the person who people turn and say ‘who’s that?’ when she walks into a party. She’s got it. She’s got the energy. And she doesn’t abuse it. She’s Jill. You just love her already.

Rewind to 1996. After knowing each other since age 11, my husband and I are finally dating. We’re skipping along in our own little world, making goo-goo eyes. I’ve gotten into Harvard Business School, he’s expanded his business into a huge warehouse and been written up in the Washington Post. This is the pinnacle of life, no? This is the fairy tale. Our young, new, naive brake pads came to a screeching halt when we learn Jill has breast cancer.

I’ll never forget standing there at the cocktail party, music playing in the background, and learning Jill – awesome Jill – looking totally normal and put together, had drains underneath her dress from the lumpectomy and would be undergoing chemo and radiation. I was devastated. My eyes welled up with tears. Thoughts and pictures raced through my brain like my life, mixed with someone else’s life, flashing before my eyes. She was so young.

How was this possible? Harvard Business School? Who cares Our goo goo eyes? Ha.

She was just getting ready to try for kids…. Life went on, as did her treatment… I moved to Boston, and heard about her progress. I walked across the Charles River every day on my way to school.  What used to make me scared, was not scary anymore because of Jill.

Business school was not scary, cancer was scary. Technology and Operations Management class was not scary, dying was scary.

And as I walked back to my apartment in Harvard Square each night at age 26, I felt thankful.tobe.alive. And to this day, when someone says: Who is your champion? I think of Jill, and I laugh. Because, it seems Jill often forgets about this time in her life.  She is alive, and flourishing. She has two beautiful little men, and one home security-system-obsessed older man who is my husband’s brother.

Cancer is in Jill’s past.  The real major tie to the disease these days is the nonprofit she helped found: Young Survival Coalition. But, I have NOT forgotten. All these years later, I will always remember how Jill fought, and fought again, and survived, and showed me how to be strong.

Love you Jilly-Poo,

Been waiting a long time to say it.