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7Everyday Hero: Cancer survivor gives hearts of hope to those still in the fight

Posted at 7:43 AM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 14:29:40-04

LITTLETON, Colo. — At Littleton Adventist Hospital, Jen Willard is delivering hearts of hope for people she's never met.

"Every one of these pillows is someone just like me that’s gonna get this, that’s gonna need this physically and emotionally," Willard said.

Willard needed her pillow in 2015 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following her double mastectomy, nurse navigator Ellen Buchannan gave her the pillow gift.

"I've learned over the years how very powerful they are. I see people who are three years after surgery and they’ll say, you gave me my pillow," Buchannan said.

"This pillow made such an impression on my heart that I thought, this is it, this is how I’m going to pay it forward," Willard said.

It's why she started JWill Pink Village. To date, the nonprofit has sent 2,500 pillows to people battling breast cancer across the country.

"How it works, is the seat belt attaches through here because after your double mastectomy, you are really in a vulnerable state, you’ve got drains coming out, you’re bandaged up, that you do not want anything to bump into you whatsoever," Willard described.

Each pillow is made by a volunteer and includes a hand-written message from a fellow survivor. It reads: "This pillow was made by volunteers with love and hope, sending you strength and courage. You’re not alone."

Those small messages of love are growing. On the JWill Pink Village Facebook page, survivors share pictures of their pillows with messages. One survivor writes, "I received my pillow on Sept 3rd. It brought tears to my eyes and also made me feel not so alone."

"I think before I started this I didn’t realize as a survivor I had more healing to do and once I started this project and started writing these tags and thinking about who might receive the pillow, it brought that additional healing emotionally that I really needed," Willard said.

Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.