Cancer Survived, Lives Revived
By CASSANDRA CHU | September 28, 2018
GARWOOD, N.J.—The worn-down, yet resilient, activist Jill Pall of Garwood, N.J. decompresses on her gray couch situated in her living room with white walls embellished with black and white decor. She just returned from an arduous and long town hall meeting, where she presented a persuasive argument to wrap teal ribbons around trees in Garwood and local parks for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Teal ribbons are symbolic of ovarian cancer, which Pall was diagnosed with in 2006.
Next to her lies a stack of seven gray notebooks. Her typically bright, cerulean eyes glances at them wearily as she picks the dog fur off her black leggings. The notebooks contain the names of potential donors for the various nonprofit organizations for which she fundraises. She brings her work home with her and often exhausts herself working on marketing and getting donations until 1 a.m.
Pall has always supported and dedicated her time to charities that support her local community. Although much of her current focus is raising funds for rescue dogs, she still advocates for causes close to her heart, some of which include ovarian cancer research and funding for 9/11 first responders.
Out of her 19 professional years, 15 of them were spent in nonprofit organizations that raised money for local charities Pall resonates with. She can’t imagine turning back to her earlier professional years working at a for-profit, corporate job.
Although much of her current focus is raising funds for rescue dogs, she still advocates for causes close to her heart, some of which include ovarian cancer research and funding for 9/11 first responders. Out of her 19 professional years, 15 of them were spent in nonprofit organizations that raised money for local charities Pall resonates with. She can’t imagine turning back to her earlier professional years working at a for-profit, corporate job.
Large black and white photos of Pall with her friends, family, and her rescue dog, Charlee, flood the walls of her foyer. In contrast to the gray color scheme of the living room, Jill is clad in a teal t-shirt from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Her shirt has the word “SURVIVOR” across it in a bold, white typeface. Although much of her world seems gray, with the gray ambiance and her bleak cancer prognosis, Pall shines brightly in her efforts to raise money for important causes, as she is surrounded by photos of her loved ones.
Pall volunteers at Colleen’s Dream Foundation at their location at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York City. Colleen's Dream Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to develop an early detection test for ovarian cancer.
A spokesperson from the foundation said, “[Jill] has not only courageously battled this disease, but she is also a vocal advocate for change. Part of why we started Colleen’s Dream was to not only share Colleen’s story but to let the world know that many of the diagnosis stories are similar.”
The Long Island native has spent five years living in New Jersey after moving from New York City. Whether in New York or New Jersey, Pall has always supported and dedicated her time to charities that support her local community. Pall attributes her charitable streak to her parents and poor upbringing. She recalls stories of coming home to find missing furniture, such as end tables and lamps, in her childhood home. When she asked about it, her parents explained that they had given it to a neighbor who needed it more than they did. These childhood memories shaped her to dedicate her time towards making a difference and giving back to the community.
Pall started her career in sports marketing. Her first job out of college was as an event planner at Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks. She soon became disenchanted with her job, sparking her transition into her nonprofit career. “I wanted to see money go to causes that actually matter and not on silly things like parties,” said Pall, 40.
She then started working for Team USA and raised funds for resources for athletes to help them become Olympians. Around this time, she received her ovarian cancer diagnosis. Her diagnosis was unusual due to her age. Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer tend to be over 60. She was 29.
While attending a support group for other women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a mother reached out to Pall on Facebook. The mother told the story of her eight-year-old daughter who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Pall was already the second youngest woman in her support group, the youngest being 21 years old. After hearing more and more stories of ovarian cancer diagnoses getting younger and younger, Jill was inspired to dedicate all her time to fundraising for ovarian cancer research.
“I wanted to change the perception of ovarian cancer as being an old person’s cancer,” Pall said.
Pall remains hopeful in her fight against ovarian cancer but is also aware of the slim chances of survival. She said, “I hate the rah-rah of cancer because the reality of ovarian cancer is out of every 108 women you meet, one of them is going to die.”
Based off this statistic from the American Cancer Society, of the 2,179 female population in Garwood, about 20 of them could have ovarian cancer. This statistic hasn’t changed since Jill’s Pall's diagnosis 12 years ago.
After being disheartened by this statistic, Pall started to direct her attention towards raising money for rescue dogs. Her first dog was a rescue dog named Lu, short for Lucky. Lu was a medical dog trained to know when Pall’s hemoglobin levels were low, which became vital to her health after being diagnosed with leukemia from blood poisoning from experimental chemotherapy. Although she was always passionate about animals and had dogs growing up, Lu was the one who inspired Jill to spend more of her time rescuing dogs.
Currently, Pall works as the director of development, marketing, and communications for Home for Good Dog Rescue, a small, local organization based in Berkeley Heights that rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in South Carolina and Georgia and provides them foster homes located all over New York and New Jersey. The foundation has rescued approximately 6,500 dogs since their inception in 2010. Jill has given both rescue dogs and herself a second chance at life.
Whether she’s holding fundraisers for rescue dogs or raising awareness for ovarian cancer, Pall's life philosophy is dedicating her time to making a difference in her local communities and, in her words, “rooting for the underdog.”