No one fights alone. That’s the message behind a June 8 symposium planned by the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. The Inaugural Jill Bertolini Symposium, open to the public, is an important fundraiser. The information being offered could save someone’s life.

In August 2019, Jill Bertolini, the event’s namesake and a Hartford HealthCare employee, was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer shortly after her wedding (shown above) at age 41.

“We were shattered, absolutely shattered,” she said.

She would go on to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

Bertolini and her husband, Mike Furlan, then bought their dream home in Salem in September 2020. That’s when Bertolini noticed she wasn’t feeling well. She attributed much of it from the chaos of the move. Two weeks later, she ended up in the emergency room due to worsening pain in her abdomen and chest. The doctor then alerted Bertolini and her husband that there was a problem.

“I just remember him standing in the doorway saying, ‘Something came up on your scan, we’re going to be admitting you.” I knew that meant cancer, but I had no idea what we were talking about,” Bertolini said.

Days later, Bertolini learned that she had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which had already metastasized to her liver and lungs. “I asked the doctor,” she said, “‘How much time do I have?’ He said if you do nothing, you have two to three months. If you do treatment, the average is about a year.”

Bertolini chose the treatment option, which she continues twice a month.

Despite her own battle, Bertolini has made it her mission to help others. Before her pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Bertolini set a goal for herself that every October she would put together a basket full of items that a mastectomy patient would need as part of their healing and recovery. She would then have her breast surgeon give that basket to a patient.

“Once surgery is complete, there are a few essential items needed to assist the breast cancer patient,” said Dr. Camelia Lawrence, director of breast surgery at The Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center. “The “Jill Basket” is a collection of must-haves – items that made Jill’s own recovery after surgery a little easier.”

Hartford HealthCare wants to ensure that these baskets will be available to all mastectomy patients moving forward at The Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center – where Bertolini used to work.

“I wanted to create some sort of way for women to feel loved, wrapped in warmth and wrapped in care,” said Bertolini. “If this is my legacy and as long as it helped one woman and made her feel better that’s all that matters to me.”

The symposium will help raise funds for the basket, but also includes:

  • The chance to hear Jill Bertolini’s story in person.
  • Details about support programs and services for all Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute patients and their loved ones.
  • Information about the latest technology and programs for early detection.
  • Question and answer session with premier oncology physicians.

The Inaugural Jill Bertolini Symposium is Tuesday, June 8, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Trinity on Main, 69 Main Street in New Britain. In-person tickets are $50, which will go toward the fundraising goal of the “Jill Baskets.”

People can also attend virtually and are asked to make a donation.

To register for the event, please call 1.855.HHC.HERE (1.855.442.4373). You can also click here, then type “Bertolini” in the search box. You can then register for the in-person or virtual event.