She knew it was going to be tough the moment she found about her diagnosis. But she couldn't force her partner to be with her if he didn't want to.
When you get into a relationship, you slowly start to see a future with your partner. One filled with laughter, tears of joy and happiness. And that is what Jillian Hanson was expecting when she was with her boyfriend, Max Allegretti. But soon, she was hit with news that shocked and devastated her.
In July 2017, Jillian was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. At just age 25, she was being told that she had cancer. Jillian didn't know what to expect or what would happen, but the one thing she was sure of — it was not going to be easy for her. At the same time, it was not going to be easy for her boyfriend, Max either.
When you're battling for life and are up against a disease as ruthless as cancer, it is emotionally challenging not just for the patient but also those who care for them. From physical care to offering emotional support while watching the person you love slowly deteriorate in health can be extremely tough. And Jillian understood that. Which is why she laid her cards out on the table for him and offered him an "out" — a way to leave her without any guilt, remorse, or sadness.
"I brought it to the table and told him this was going to be a lot," Jillian told Good Morning America. But Max was having none of that and he dropped everything to be by her side.
It was his mission to stay strong with her and make sure he was there to support her through the rollercoaster ride that is cancer treatment. When October 2017 came and Jillian had to begin her chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York, Max was right there with her.
But that's not all he was doing. Max also made an effort to keep the romance alive. "Even though it was hard for Jil to go out and have energy, I tried to plan little things here and there, surprises, going to the movies … just to normalize the situation," he told the news outlet.
"They tell you how sick you get during treatment, but no one can really prepare you for any of this," Jillian wrote in a personal essay. "He took care of me everyday and reminded me how beautiful I was -- even as my hair thinned and fell out, and my skin turned white as a ghost."
In the course of the five months, Jillian had undergone 16 rounds of chemotherapy. "He told me that I was the strongest woman he knew and that this whole experience has made him love me more. This hardship made us grow closer together as a couple, and that is exactly why he is my person," she added.
On the last day of her chemotherapy, on February 28, 2018, Max surprised her with a proposal in the hospital room. "I was thinking about it for a long time," he said.
"I spoke with her family and friends, and we all decided it would bring a lot more joy even to the special day it was going to be already." In a heartwarming video capturing the moment, Jillian is surrounded by her family and the nurses when her boyfriend walked into the room and asked for her hand in marriage.
Stunned for a minute or two, the moment she said yes, there was a resounding cheer. "I wasn't expecting it; he made this big elaborate plan of the day," Jillian shared. "That was the ultimate high -- getting engaged brought great light to me after a really dark spot."
But despite the joy, there was still a long road ahead for the cancer patient. There were still more treatments and therapies to go through and planning a wedding was not at the top of her priority list. And yet, there are miracles every day. In October 2018, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jillian and Max met someone who would help make their dream come true.
Lauren Grech, the founder of the wedding planning company LLG Events, was at a fundraiser that the couple had attended. Inspired by their story, Lauren decided to help them out by surprising them with a thoughtful gift. "We wanted to give her a celebration and give them a celebration of happiness," she told GMA.
Grech volunteered her entire wedding planning services along with free services from other vendors in order to make this gift work for the couple. Not just that, but the Kenneth Winston dream wedding dress that Jillian donned had also been donated. "I put that dress on and I didn't care about anything else," the now-27-year-old said. "I felt so amazing in it."
"I wanted to get this girl what she deserves and to feel like every other bride feels on their wedding day … to feel special," Lauren said. With everything already taken care of, all that was left for the couple was to say, "I do." And they did so on Saturday, October 18, 2019.
But they didn't forget what this gesture meant to them. "I wanted to give Jil an amazing wedding and there was no way we could have done it without them," Max said. "It's been such a long and painful road, and there have been so many people there for us," Jillian explained. "[This wedding] is celebrating everything -- marriage, life, love, everything."
As for the newlywed couple, they still have quite a bit to do even if Jillian managed to fight back the cancer, but they are pumped to do it together. They also have some advice for others going through hard times. "Be there as much as you can for the other person and keep in mind it's temporary, and you will get back to who you were," the new husband said. "In our case, we came out stronger and better."
And may they remain that way and continue to let their love grow.