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  • Written Jun 20, 2010 10:59am

    Borrowed directly from the Facebook event I just created...

    My name is Jill Costello. Everyone who receives this invitation is at least an acquantance and knows that I am currently in the hardest challenge of my life.

    On June 6, 2009, I was diagnosed with stage iv lung cancer which had spread to my liver, breast, and bones.

    Being an otherwise competely healthy 21-year old student at UC Berkeley and member of the division I varsity women's crew team, the diagnosis came as quite the shock. Because of the unfair stigma attached to lung cancer, research, development, and treatment options are low and limited.

    The truth is that LUNG CANCER can stroke ANYONE!!!

    I work closely with the Bonnie J. Addario lung cancer Foundation and WILL find the cure to this horrible and underfunded disease.

    On September 12, 2010, The Foundation is having a 5k walk/run in Golden Gate Park inSan Francisco, California and I am inviting all of you to participate in my honor!

    Last year, ''Team Jill'' entered and won top fundraising team with over $10,000!!!

    This year I would like to up the ante and shoot for an even higher goal. I would like ''Team Jill'' to hit $25,000!!! Think we can do it?

    I have registered ''Team Jill'' and you are now welcome to join. This way we are all registered together.

    But I have also thought of a way to keep it competitive. As groups, we should separate and have different ''Team Jill'' affiliations. I recommend each faction of the Team create their own version of a ''Team Jill'' shirt. For example, groups may include Cal Crew, Cal Crew Alum, current Kappas, Kappa alumni or Kappa 2010, DG for Jill, Knights of Malta, Fiji for Jill, current SI students, SI 2006, Princesses ;), Cal Rugby, Whispering Pines People, Camp Mather Gang, distant Caringbridge supporters can make donations to the team in general. I can
    also give you jpegs from the Foundation and help you with designs. You get the idea!

    If you are in Berkeley, I highly recommend using Fantasy T-shirts on University Avenue. The company has agreed to make a large donation to our team if we get a few groups to use their store. I have worked with them on several different occasions and they are dependable with good prices. I typically use their unisex medium weight styles. Contact Arthur Choy: freearthurchoy@gmail.com to get set up or let me know if you have any questions!

    In other news, i have returned home from a 7-night stay at UCSF battling pnemonia and a partially collapsed lung. Since my return home Wednesday, I have spent my days figuring out pain management and regaining my strength in isolation. I'm sorry to have to deny visits, but I do truly appreciate your support through your beautiful messages.

    Thank you for BELIEVING with me everyday.

    With all my love and gratitude,

    Register here: 
  • Written Jun 11, 2010 12:41am

    Introducing the latest Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation Campaign:     

    "Just Like Jill"


    Amazing video. Time to change the world.
  • Written Jun 9, 2010 6:59am

    As of JUNE 6, 2010: ONE YEAR DOWN!!!

    -20 rounds of chemo
    -14 days of radiation
    -3 Biopsies
    -Most importantly, over $65,000 raised to find the cure---THANKS TO YOU!!!

    I remember the moment of my diagnosis twelve months ago as clearly as yesterday. I walked into the bathroom of that teeny hospital room, looked myself through bloodshot eyes and said, “I don’t know what’s happening, but you’re going to get through this.” The plan hasn’t changed since. As expected, there have been some ups and downs. I’ve been pricked and prodded, interviewed and honored, across the world and across the graduation stage, knocked down by chemo and lifted up by my family and friends. There are mornings when I’m ready to take on the world, and others when it seems like the weight of my struggles are too heavy to carry. I push through the tough times by reflecting on all the incredible experiences and opportunities I have been given throughout this journey. The amount of support and love I receive daily remind me why life is so worth fighting for. It is the images of my teammates in “Team Jill” racing uniforms, swarms of “joggers for Jill,” and the Cal Men’s Crew pulling to a national championship in my honor that help me hold back tears when I’m giving myself twice-daily injections that cover my legs in bruises or swallowing 15 pills in the morning. I know for certain I would not be here today without the unconditional and unending love I have receive from you all.

    A recent example of my amazing support network was in the success of my “hair chopping” party! I am so proud so have collected 26 ponytails to send to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths, which makes wigs for women with cancer. In addition to the 13 of my teammates, sorority sisters, and friends who snipped at least 8 inches at the Kappa house, I received ANOTHER 13 from friends at schools all over the country (including NYU, UCLA, Oregon, and Denver). I was overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm for my desire to spread the good! My own hair has been majorly thinned from these last couple rounds of Taxotere/Carboplatin, but not completely wiped out. I’m having fun rotating between the blonde bob and luscious long brunette when I want to go for the glam!

    Another exciting experience I had this month was the opportunity to address the Genentech staff for the second time down at their headquarters in South San Francisco. About 300 members of their Commercial Business Operations department were interested in learning about my patient experience on their drug, Avastin. As the “office” people, this group deals more directly with doctors and development than patients. My hope is that seeing my face and hearing my story will inspire them to work even harder to get the right drugs to the right people. When they asked me how they could improve the patient experience and roared when I answered, “Do your job!” I then explained that means constantly dreaming of innovation, pushing the envelope, and discovering those cures!

    A few days later, with “cures” in mind, I was off to Lourdes, France on my pilgrimage with the Knights of Malta. After applying to the program in December, I was one of about 40 “malades” (sick persons) chosen from over 100 applicants. I was also the only malade to be allowed to have two “companions” travel with me, so both Mom and Auntie Kathy could join!  It’s hard to put into words the scale, power, and serenity of this holy destination. In a small town tucked in the Pyrenees Mountains lies a pure example of peace on earth. The 6 million yearly visitors to Lourdes don’t scream and yell, or spit and push like the Disneyland or baseball park crowd. Instead, they pray and reflect, meander and meditate. The strength of their belief in God and miracles can be felt in the air.

    Founded in 1050, The Order of Malta is a world-wide lay Catholic organization with chapters in over 120 countries, mostly European. Their motto is “Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum", to defend the Faith and assist the poor and suffering. In addition to the voluntary work and humanitarian assistance that the Knights and Dames of the Order perform and provide all year long, the pilgrimage to Lourdes is the highlight of the year’s activities. It was astonishing to see the thousands of Knights, Dames, malades, and companions from all over the world. All with the same uniforms and push-carts (you’ll see in the pictures), the only way to distinguish the people from the different countries was through the patches on their clothes and language from their mouths. 

    Intimidated by the 80-page mini-itinerary booklet broken down into 20-minute increments, I prepared myself for a lot of quiet meditation and deep thought on this trip. I expected the other “malades” to be a big group of sad, sick, old people and the Knights and Dames to be a bunch of stark, soldier-like characters. INSTEAD, I met the most caring, compassionate group of people I have ever encountered in my life. I can honestly say that each conversation and interaction I had with my fellow members of the pilgrimage was engaging, meaningful, and heartfelt. Our mutual desire to connect both spiritually and personally allowed us all to foster deep relationships that I know will last a lifetime.

    There are three American divisions of the Order (Federal-DC, American-New York, and Western-San Francisco). On the trip, our “Western Association” group of 285 was broken down into teams of 40 and assigned a color. Go Blue! Each team became a little family for the entire trip. Every day, one of the 8 malades on the team was assigned specifically to a Knight and Dame pair who were in charge of pushing and pulling the malade’s cart around town. The malades were not allowed to walk! Together, we experienced beautiful ceremonies, including the washing of the feet, confession, mass at the Grotto, the dunking in the bathes, the anointing of the sick, the candlelight rosary procession, the medal presentation from his “Highness”-the president of the entire association, and tours of the basilicas and crypts of Lourdes. Yes, some of the ceremonies lasted several hours, but I was so entranced by their magnitude and holiness that I really didn’t want them to end! My pilgrimage to Lourdes was a healing, powerful, and unforgettable experience and truly advanced my spiritual development.

    Video of my favorite event- the NIGHTLY candlelight process where 30,000 believers come together to recite the rosary in a dozen languages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPo0sciGUJg

    Video/slideshow of my favorite Lourdes photographs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwyNr3H8zRA

    Underground Basilica of St. Pius X, empty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEQKpQWW7Ik

    Underground Basilica of St. Pius X, full with all of the Order of Malta chapters: 25,000+: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONYHYtuXBBc&feature=related

    I knew that making my trip to Lourdes would require me to miss our Stanford Dual versus the defending national champions. To my complete surprise, the men and women of Cal and Stanford raced in my honor- wearing turquoise (my favorite color) ribbons and tank tops. I was struck and humbled by this amazing showing of sportsmanship. As another bonus, Cal won EVERY race! Even though I was 6,000 miles away, I could not have been more proud of my team. http://www.dailycal.org/article/109372/cancer-stricken_costello_inspires_crew_teams_from_ 

    On the plane ride home, I was busy preparing my speech as the student-speaker for the student-athlete academic honors luncheon the very next day! My little speech was well-received, (http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2010/05/07_athletics.shtml) but I was even more shocked to unexpectedly receive the Joseph M. Kavanagh Award as Cal’s most inspirational student-athlete. In gratitude, I would also like to recognize a few of the other honors I have been awarded over the past few weeks: the Bettina Bents Award (for loyalty, proficiency, and spirit), Pac-10 Female Rowing Athlete of the Year, and membership on the Pac-10 all-academic second-team. And one more- I’m going to be Dash O’Neill’s godmother! We’ve already begun some serious bonding J

    The end of the crew season flew by. In some fierce races at Pac-10s, with a fan-club members including St. Ignatius alumni, Knights and Dames of Malta, friends, and family- Cal Women’s Crew walked away GOLD in the varsity 8 and the team championship! At NCAA’s, all three boats put up great fights against our national competition (specifically Virginia, Yale, and Princeton) and finished as the #2 team in the country behind Virginia. Not a bad way to end my rowing career!

    Thrown in the midst of those two big regattas, I also graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy…with my highest semester GPA ever- a 4.0! Graduation was made even more memorable with the addition of “Jack,” my new Maltese puppy, to our family. He is 11 weeks old and fitting right in.

    As final bonus to the festivities of past few weeks was Cal Men’s Crew national championship victory (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLFcOvAzam4) In a final showdown of their rivalry versus Washington, the Bears cinched the Huskies for the first time this season by .2 seconds in their grand final at IRAs in New Jersey to bring home the GOLD! The men’s texts and messages that they took the last twenty strokes for me as their inspiration was absolutely incredible. I am awestruck by their compassion and even more proud of their accomplishments! 

    Unfortunately, just as my world began to unravel at this time last year, it seems to be happening again. This afternoon, after some alarming lab results, I was admitted to UCSF, most likely for a few days. The growing liver tumors revealed on my May 25th CT scans have caused my abdomen to be severely distended and uncomfortable. The pain and pressure have made it difficult to walk, eat, and sometimes breathe. I have discontinued Taxotere/Carboplatin and moved onto Tarceva, which is a daily, targeted pill therapy shown to be effective in patients with the EGFR mutation. Although I don’t have this EGFR mutation, the fact that I am a young, female, non-smoker indicates that there is still a good chance that it will be effective for me. In addition, the liver biopsy I had last Thursday was performed for more genetic testing done- including the ALK that many of you have written me about from the New York Times article. I should get the results of those genetic tests next week. If I am positive for the ALK mutation, I would switch to a clinical trial for that targeted treatment.

    And so…the saga continues. I am already feeling better and stronger with IV pain medication and some forced R&R in my hospital room. Mom’s on the sleeper chair next to me snoozing away, so I better turn off the lights and tuck in. I feel better equipped and less shocked than I did twelve months ago because I know how strong my team is. I have no doubt that this just another road bump and am whole-heartedly BELIEVING that my cure is still coming.

    Thank you for your continued prayers and channeled strength, I need it!

    All my love,


    Ps- Save the Date: September 12, 2010- Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation's Walk in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. I am a co-chair!

    More links: 

    KPIX Video: http://cbs5.com/video/?id=65704@kpix.dayport.com

    SF Chronicle Article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=%2Fc%2Fa%2F2010%2F05%2F29%2FMNJH1DHDGU.DTL

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California Pacific Medical Center
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