The statistic is startling – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. In fact, it’s estimated that one out of every eight women will get breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Jill Bertolini was one of those women. In 2019, right after her wedding, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and would go on to have a double mastectomy. After her recovery, Bertolini decided that every October she would make a bag filled with various items that helped her in her recovery, and then have her breast surgeon give that bag to a patient going through a similar situation to help provide them with comfort and healing.

Bertolini Bag

“Jill was always at her best when she was giving back,” said Mike Furlan, Bertolini’s husband.

In late summer of 2020, right before she was set to give that first bag, Bertolini was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, which doctors say was completely unrelated to the breast cancer diagnosis. She was given a year to live with treatment. Despite this crushing prognosis, Bertolini was determined to continue on with helping other women.

In partnership with her employer, Hartford HealthCare, Bertolini created an annual event – the Jill Bertolini Symposium. The symposium provides life-saving information to the community about cancer, treatments and resources that are available. It also raises money to ensure that every patient who goes through a mastectomy at The Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center receives a “Jill Bag.” Some of the items in the bag include a blanket, inspirational bracelet, warmie, lip balm, sleep mask, drainage belt, various skin care items and more.

Sadly, Bertolini passed away on December 7, 2021, after a courageous and long-fought battle with cancer, but her legacy lives on through the symposium. The public is invited to attend the Second Annual Jill Bertolini Symposium on Tuesday, June 7 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Trinity on Main, 69 Main Street, New Britain. This year the symposium will include:

Jill Bertolini Symposium

  • Hearing from Cancer and Careers, an organization helping patients navigate and thrive in the workplace following a cancer diagnosis.
  • Information about the supportive programs and services for all Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute patients and loved ones.
  • A question-and-answer session with premier oncology physicians, cancer care team members and caregivers.

Bertolini’s family takes comfort in knowing that the symposium is having a profound impact on other women – even though Bertolini is no longer here.

“Knowing that her legacy will live on has provided us with so much comfort. It shows that good can sometimes come from the most difficult of situations,” Furlan explains.

Registration is required for the Jill Bertolini Symposium. Tickets are free and donations help fund the “Jill Bags” for all mastectomy patients.

To register for the event in person or virtually, or to make a donation to the Jill Bertolini Fund, please call 1.855.HHC.HERE (1.855.442.4373).