Thursday, May 27, 2004

Cancer survivor helping others

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jill Huse is giving back.
College memories are often crisp and beautiful.

Vibrant autumn leaves, cheering on a football team and deep philosophical discussions over coffee long into the night.

Jill Huse remembers it as the time she got cancer.

Huse eventually beat Hodgkin's disease and now the 29-year-old woman is giving back to the community through work with the Southern Ohio chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The Florence resident is one of 10 competitors in the local Man and Woman of the Year fund-raiser. The competition lasts eight weeks, during which participants individually raise as much money as they can for the charity.

This year's local competition, with a goal of raising $120,000, concludes tonight with a silent auction and gala dinner at the Phoenix.

What: The Man and Woman of the Year grand finale celebration.

When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. today.

Where: The Phoenix, 812 Race St., downtown.

Tickets: $40.

Information: 361-2100.

Participants have a multitude of reasons for getting involved, said campaign coordinator Melissa Herman.

"They are community leaders. They are individuals who have had a personal experience. They are people who have had loved ones who passed away," Herman said.

"And they are people who just want to help."

Huse has raised about $1,500 through a date auction, an art viewing at the Weston Art Gallery and two fund-raisers at the downtown law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, where she is marketing director.

"Being a survivor of cancer myself, I thought I could raise more money than the typical person," she said.

In 1994, Huse was 19 and a sophomore at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale when she began having repeated health problems, including night sweats and fevers.

She was misdiagnosed several times before doctors said they had determined the cause - appendicitis. During surgery, however, the real problem - a 10-inch tumor in her abdomen - was discovered.

That's when Huse was diagnosed with Hodgkin's. The news came less than two years after Huse's father died of lung cancer.

Through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Huse stayed in school and let few people know about her cancer.

"I was nauseous a lot. I was tired a lot. But I was young, so I could sustain going to class and going out sometimes," Huse said. "It was very important to me to stay as normal as possible."

That included keeping up appearances even as she lost her hair to chemotherapy.

She had to bite her tongue as friends fretted about happy hours, clothes and boyfriend troubles.

"You get to be resentful of your friends because they're worried about such trivial things," she said. "But on some superficial level, I wanted to worry about those things too."

In June 1996, more traces of the cancer were found. Huse came to Cincinnati for a bone marrow transplant.

Throughout the process, Huse was told that her chances of conceiving a child would be slim.

Huse and her husband, Jim, had been married for about six months when they decided to try to have a baby. One month later, Huse was pregnant.

Son Nathan was born Dec. 10.

Just a couple months after Nathan's birth, Huse started her fund raising for the Man and Woman of the Year competition.

"I felt compelled to do what I could," she said. "Even if I don't win, it's an awesome charity.

"It's a win-win situation."


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