Fischer: not dying, not going to

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Staker
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
"When I found out I had cancer, I never cried," said Jill Fischer, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight secretary. "I looked at my husband and said 'You know what. I am not dead, I am not dying and I am not going to.'"

In December 2008, Fischer was only three months into a deployment with the Army as a force support NCO when she started noticing changes in her body that did not seem normal.

"I noticed something really hard like a golf ball in between my breasts and I attributed it to the fact I had a footstool I had fallen off of when crawling into bed one night," Fischer said. "I had pretty much bruised my entire body. However, this part wasn't changing colors."

She went to the clinic and was referred to a women's health doctor, only to be later sent to Bagram Airfield to get an ultrasound. However, the doctor there sent her back to her job, saying there was nothing wrong.

"Three weeks later I went back to the [doctor] and said 'obviously it is not fine because now it's pushing inward, it's sinking, and for it to be sinking, it screams cancer,'" Fischer said.

After returning to Bagram, a different surgeon determined the clinic technology was insufficient for the required tests, and referred Fischer to Germany. There, after undergoing the right testing, she was told it could be cancer and that she was going home.

She quickly called her family and informed them she would be coming home early. Having lost her mom a year prior, her family did not take the news well, Fischer said.

Returning to Rapid City, she was evacuated to Ellsworth in an ambulance, cleared with flight medicine, and received a call from Rapid City Regional Hospital the next day.

Within 24 hours she had her first meeting with the surgeon who confirmed it was cancer after a second biopsy. They spoke about surgery and reconstruction options, and discussed a single mastectomy, or the removal of a single breast.

"I said there's no way I'm letting you do one, I want you to do both," Fischer said. "When they asked why, I said I'm still active duty. In five years, I'm not laying back on a table so you can cut me open again for the same thing. Get it all and get it all at once."

On May 4, Fischer underwent a double mastectomy, and three weeks later began an eight-week chemotherapy treatment followed by 25 sessions of radiation. During this time, she continued to serve as a lodging NCO at Ellsworth.

"Being from Rapid City originally, I had all my family support, my squadron support and my husband's squadron support," Fischer said. "Had it not been for [all of them] I think things would have been a little different for me, but knowing I had that support, that made things easier."

Not only was she working during the treatment, she was also going through a medical board process which would determine her future in the Air Force.

"It was a very fast-paced process but I struggled through it just fine," Fischer said. "During chemo and radiation, I still maintained 60 hours a week at work or better because there was a job to be done and this wasn't going to change that."

On Nov. 11, 2012, Fischer officially separated from the Air Force and became a dependent under her husband.

"My mantra behind cancer was, I watched my mom get diagnosed in March and die in May," Fischer said. "I said to myself I cannot do that to my family. We lost my dad already, we lost my mom, I was next and I had to be there for them."

There were very few moments during her journey where she felt weak and cried, because going into the entire situation with a positive attitude makes the treatment and the process, Fischer said.

"God gives you what you can handle; God gave this to me and I'm going to let it come and do its business," Fischer said. "But when I'm ready to be done with it, I'm going to say 'get out, we're done.' I basically kept that attitude through the entire thing because if you come in with a negative attitude, life is going to suck and you're not going to get any better."

Although there were times when she had to step back and think about her situation, Fischer said she never got angry.

"I did cry one day during treatment," she said. "My doctor had said when he first met me, 'I remember you, you're Paula's daughter.' And I said don't you dare say that to me again until I'm done because she did not make it off your table alive and I will. I said I plan to be here for my 40th birthday."

This past year, Fischer celebrated her 40th birthday, and was deemed cancer-free after five years.