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Survivor Paying it Forward

Depicting scenes from St. Louis to Lake Havasu and everywhere in between, the colorful magnets that brighten up Jill’s refrigerator tell the story of her life as a travel nurse.  And these aren’t the only souvenirs she has gathered on her travels.  Some are tangible, like the art pieces she collects on each assignment, and some exists only as pleasant memories. She takes amazing photos wherever she goes but has no problem deciding which is her “best one”.  A few weeks ago Jill’s recruiter and “good buddy,” Taylor sent her tickets to a Dave Matthews Band concert.  Jill grabbed a friend and hit the road to Charleston from her current assignment in Greenville, North Carolina. The spontaneous decision to check out a historical ghost tour lead to a surprise encounter – a meeting with the very man they had come to see! When Jill noticed that Dave was actually on her tour she played it cool. “I acted like I didn’t know who he was because I didn’t want to be that fan.” But after catching his concerts for over twenty years and declaring her love with a tattoo of the band’s symbol on her leg, Jill would never have forgiven herself if she didn’t ask for a photo. Dave happily posed with her and “it couldn’t have been better.”

This magical moment could not have come together for a more deserving person. A few years back, at just 32 years old, Jill discovered that she had breast cancer. Characteristically, not only did her diagnosis fail to stop her from living her life as she wished, it actually propelled her forward. During the second week of her treatment Jill meet a dedicated nurse who set her on a new path. This nurse was “also young when she was diagnosed. She would come and find me when I had appointments in the building, even if I wasn’t supposed to see her, to check in with me. She made such a difference in my life.” At the time Jill was pursuing a bachelor’s degree and decided to switch her focus from education to nursing. She stayed in school throughout chemo, radiation and a double mastectomy, graduating in just 11 months. “Nursing has been a great choice. I’ve made lots of good friends and helped take care of hundreds if not thousands of patients and feel like I’ve made a difference in a lot of lives. II have been there as a patient in the hospital and I feel like I can relate to them on a different level and give them some hope.”

Her disease couldn’t slow Jill down, and now that she is completely cancer free she has remained on the move. She says “I always knew going through nursing school that I wanted to travel.” Jill was working in her home town of Denver when a fellow nurse who was headed to Hawaii with Aya Healthcare suggested that Jill reach out to Taylor.  “I called him and it was a whirlwind. In two weeks I bought a new car, had a job lined up and the rest was history.” There are many things that she loves about her career as a travel nurse. Her family is spread across the country and she has made a point of choosing assignments near them, allowing her to visit a grandfather she hadn’t seen in years and an uncle she had missed for decades. From reuniting with loved ones, to her frequent weekend trips with fellow travel nurses, Jill always finds the best in every place she travels.  “I love to talk. I get that from my mom.  The second that I get to town I am always asking people what is the closest beach or what is the best restaurant close by or what is your favorite thing to do.” Jill’s friendly nature is engaging and locals are quick to recommend hot spots.  Whether she’s discovering new dog parks with Frankie, her adorable Maltese/Yorkie mix, or tasting raw oysters for the first time while seaside in Charleston, Jill is living her motto to  “try everything once” to the fullest.