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College staff member, friends help bridge gap for patient’s family, home

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

College staff member, friends help bridge gap for patient’s family, home

Her family lives in northern Indiana. When she needed cancer treatment at IU Health Simon Cancer Center Jillian Wilson’s college connections have provided support.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes,

When Jillian “Jill” Wilson first visited the UIndy campus she just felt that it was the right place for her to attend college. At the time, it seemed close to her South Bend, Ind. home.

She wasn’t there long when she met Brenda Bassi, who works with the campus Academic Success Center. The program helps provide students the tools they need to keep pace with a college curriculum. Those tools include coaching on time management and study skills. Bassi was working with another student who talked about how bright Wilson was. Connecting with students is a big part of Bassi’s role.

For Wilson, that connection spans more than a decade.

After graduating in the top 20 of her class of about 300 Washington High School students, Wilson came to Indianapolis where she earned a degree in marketing. She graduated from UIndy in 2008, and obtained a second undergraduate degree in public relations from Indiana University. She also has a master’s degree from Full Sail University.

Academics are important to her and the people she met along the way are equally important.

She was pursuing her marketing career at an Indianapolis engineering firm when she first became ill.

“The first signs that something was wrong was when I inhaled deeply, I had a pain on my side,” said Wilson, 35. It was February of 2021 when she visited her primary care physician and the first thoughts were that she had gallbladder issues. A followup ultra sound showed fluid in her right lungs. An x-ray and CT scan were ordered and two masses were discovered in her chest area.

“From there a biopsy determined that it was thymoma cancer,” said Wilson. Surgery and five cycles of chemotherapy followed. Pathology reports in August of 2021 brought her to IU Health Simon Cancer Center where she was in the care of Dr. Patrick Loehrer.

After reviewing my pathology reports, Dr. Loehrer thought I might have lymphoma,” said Wilson. A September PET scan came back clear of cancer. A followup scan in January 2022 showed signs of cancer. She went in for additional surgery and started chemotherapy again in March. Since then, she’s been in the care of Dr. Michael Robertson and been hospitalized twice.

Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the infection-fighting cells of the immune system. In addition to being cautious about a compromised immune system, Wilson said the side effects of her treatment have made it tough to be away from family.

Her older sister is nearly three hours away in South Bend. He mother died in 2007 a result of complications from diabetes and her brother died in 2016.

Since her diagnosis and the beginning of treatment, Bassi has stepped in helping her with cleaning, laundry and meals. She has come with Wilson to doctor’s appointments and infusion treatments and sometimes just visits with her when she is lonely. Bassi has a daughter, 29, who is also friends with Wilson.

“She’s like a sister to my daughter and like a niece to me. We are here for her,” said Bassi.

To help pass the time and keep her mind focused on healing, Wilson turns to art. She has created several cartoon characters for children of her friends, and also original works. She serves as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana and hopes to pursue Foster Parenting one day. She likes to travel, enjoys being creative with fashion and makeup and is active in Rise Church.

She recently rang the bell in the infusion unit of Simon Cancer Center signaling an end to her treatment. On a chalkboard she wrote: “We made it. Thank you IU Health. God Bless.”

“As I look ahead, there’s a lot I want to do. I have a lot of goals,” said Wilson. “For now, I’m looking at the immediate future and I want to get better and become more health conscious.”



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