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Buddy to Buddy: A sister's death highlights seriousness of breast cancer diagnosis

While breast cancer treatments and survival rates have improved over the years, women are still losing their lives.

WESTBROOK, Maine — Heather O’Bryan of Westbrook says her sister, Jill Giardullo, lived life like a rock star. 

“Loved life! Loved life! And everybody loved her. She just had that, you know, personality where, you know, life of the party - first person at the party, last one at the party.”

But at the age of 30, just a couple of months away from her wedding day, Giarullo was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two and a half years later, she was gone.

“It's just such a waste of life,” says O’Bryan, “And it happens more than you think. Everybody thinks breast cancer is treatable but there's all different types of breast cancer and this one is particularly, it hits a lot of young women and the outcome is not great.”

The type of cancer Giardullo had is known as triple-negative. It is extremely aggressive, and as a nurse, Giardullo knew she was in for a fight. 

“Right away she opted for a double mastectomy,” says O’Bryan, “She had that in March 2014. Her wedding was May 2014. She looked the most beautiful that she ever looked in her whole entire life, and she had the most amazing wedding.”

But soon thereafter, the cancer returned in different parts of Giardullo's body, eventually spreading to her brain. That lead to another surgery, and another chance for a full recovery.

“So she was good through the summer. And then we went to New Jersey for a vacation in August of 2016, and by then she was really in a lot of pain.” 

Even at that point, O’Bryan says her sister still had a lot of fight left in her, and she and her family still had hope. But as it turns out, she only had one more month to live.

O’Bryan says, while she's always happy to see uplifting stories of survival in NEWS CENTER Maine's monthly Buddy to Buddy reports, everything about the way her sister lived and died should be a reminder to all.

“You know what? Some people don't get to live their lives. So let's just live it! Let's just do it! You know like take that risk. Do your thing. That's what she taught me through her fight against breast cancer.”

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