Jill Wood, Parent Extraordinaire

Yesterday, I finally had my first mammogram.  A mammogram that I had been putting off for over a year.

“Have you had your mammogram?” Jill Wood, a parent of a hard of hearing son,  asked me during an IM conversation a year ago.  Jill had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and was about to begin chemotherapy.  

“I haven’t had one yet, but I will,” I typed back.   The doctor had given me the RX for a mammogram earlier that year, but I couldn’t find the paper.  I just put the procedure on the back burner.

When I received the RX again this year, I told myself that I really needed to follow through with it.  So there I was yesterday, dressed in a gown and about to haul my boobs over a plastic plate to be squished.

“Just a minute,” the technician said.  “I need to get the larger plate.”  She replaced the regular-sized plastic plate with the larger plate.

I rolled my eyes and quickly, my thoughts went to Jill. 

I gotta tell her about this, I said to myself.  She would crack up at the thought of hauling out a larger plate for my anatomy.

My thoughts soon turned dark as I noticed a spot on one of the digital images that came up on the screen.

“Should I be worried?” I asked the technician.

“No, you have to wait for the doctor to review the images and they’ll call you within a week.”

I was driving home yesterday and thinking, “I gotta call Jill and talk to her.”

That night, I received a message from Barbara, another parent who knew Jill:

Hi Karen – I know you don’t read Listen-up every day but thought you would want to know that Jill Wood passed away on Friday, Dec. 26.  I knew she’d taken a turn for the worse a couple of months ago but didn’t realize the extent.  I’m very, very sad.

 I sat there stunned.  And I cried.  I called Barbara for the first time and we talked.  I emailed Helen, Jill’s friend and learned that Jill was doing well five days before and then took a rapid turn for the worse.  The world lost a great woman, a great mom.  I know I’m not alone in feeling this way because on the parent listserv where we met, many other parents felt the same way.   You see, Jill was an incredible mom who greeted parent after parent on the list, sharing her thoughts, her feelings and all the things she learned throughout the years of parenting a son with progressive hearing loss.  Her son sent my oldest son some Weird Al music and got him hooked on Weird Al videos as a result.  So I bought a Weird Al video for Christmas last year for my oldest son and the kids just cracked up watching it.   

Jill wrote with wit and wisdom and her personality shone through with every post she shared.  I’m not kidding.  Ask any parent on the listserv and you’ll see that this gal stood out and many learned from her.

Jill was a freelance illustrator who drew book covers.  She shared some of her designs with me and I was blown away by her talent.  Last October, when she first began chemotherapy, she and I wrote back and forth.  She joked about doing reconstructive surgery and getting a set of perky boobs that would be the envy of everyone in the nursing home when she turned 90. 

Yes, that was Jill, ever the optimist with a wisecrack.  In one of her emails, she said she was off to get her “poison cocktails” and said that she was going to make her doctors insert a fancy drink umbrella on it.  “At least I’ll get to catch up on some much needed sleep,” she joked about the side effects.  I was about to leave for a cruise at that time, so I emailed back and said that I would have a Pina Colada in her honor, complete with an umbrella and send her a picture. 

“Here’s the picture, as promised,” I wrote to her when we arrived back.  I was in a swimsuit, holding a pina colada with an umbrella perched in it.   “I wouldn’t send just anyone a picture of me in a swimsuit,” I joked.  “Only for you, girl.”

So as I wait for result from the mammogram, I’m going to celebrate Jill’s life and dig out the Weird Al video for our trip up to Michigan.  Here’s to you, Jill.


Jill and her husband Larry, in their funny slippers


Jill’s Caring Bridge Journal

Donations in Jill’s name can be made to:

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

MD Anderson Cancer Center for IBC Research


After two mammograms and an ultrasound, the doc sent me home saying that all is fine.

24 replies
  1. Tracey Rodrigue
    Tracey Rodrigue says:

    Hi Karen,
    What a lovely write up. Jill was such an amazing person and impacted so many of us Mom’s and our kids. My son was one that was completly unserved in his district, until I met Jill and she helped me figure out how to fight for what he needed. 4 years later and he is doing great, and I seriously doubt if we would have been in that place if we had never met Jill. She was always the first to step up and welcome and help and support anyone on the Listen Up sight. And her joy in her family and pride in kids, just as they were, really inspired me to accept my kiddos and cherish their unique qualities and not bow to all that social pressure that we always feel to conform to the acceptable norms. I know that evertime I go to support my son, or another kiddo, that Jill will always be there in the back of mind, urging me to keep on fighting for what I know is right. That alone is a huge legacy.

  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am overwhelmed with emotions over her passing and her family’s loss. I started a new hat today and have decided that it will be donated as a chemo hat when it is completed. It is funny how connected one can feel with someone who one only knows through the computer and written words.

  3. Judy Brennan
    Judy Brennan says:

    I want to not only thank Karen for her wonderful post, I want to thank Jill’s bff, Helen, for directing me to it. I am Jill’s “adopted” aunt and her son Ian’s Godmother. Today we had a memorial service for Jill in our little town in her little church, and it was standing room only. To say that my wonderful Jill was loved is an understatement. She could be feisty, funny, bitchy, wacko….but always her love for humanity and her compassion for those in any kind of need shone brightly. She would feed others before herself, recycle clothing until it was unwearable, sit on the internet until she’d answered everyone of you who needed her sound advice and militant support. She has taught me how to fight for myself against the sometimes lax medical world and to demand what I need when I need it.
    38 years ago when I first met Jill, she was a skinny 11 year old who frequently missed school and activities due to severe asthma….that’s where her painstaking approach to crafts and art were honed, sitting on her bed, trying to breathe and not turn gray.
    She never ever let a Christmas go by without making sure I was included and her gifts are among my most cherished possessions.
    As I listened to people today, and read your entries in tribute to her, I realized that we all knew the same person. She never changed herself to suit the circumstance….her integrity remained unsullied and her chosen “campaigns” remained priorities until they drew to a satisfactory conclusion.
    Apparently, people around the world knew her and her work on behalf of Ian and others with hearing problems…..and she reveled in the contacts she could call upon from those contacts to help Ian whenever she needed.
    Many of you were a loving source of support and strength through the months we drove here and there for this treatment and that test. She fought to the very end, choosing to breathe under her own power rather than give in to a machine. She died fighting for life.
    I can only hope that, when my time comes, I will have half the strength and uncomplaining patience that she had.
    I will miss her tremendously and talk to her daily, I am sure.
    I thank you all for all that you gave to her in return. Know that she loved each and every one of you. Her heart was that big.

  4. jodi
    jodi says:

    So, so sad. She was such a wonderful person. Strange how knowing a person by means of these groups can touch you in a deeper way than had you met them on the street. Yes, you are one of those people, too. My prayers are with her family and they can expect another package from Italy *smile* Maybe I’ll throw something in for Larry this time…

  5. Stephen Hopson
    Stephen Hopson says:

    I hope that the results of your MG turn out with good news for you.

    Thanks for highlighting the power of yet another extrarodinary life that was unfortunately snuffed out by cancer. This usually serves as a wake-up call for the rest of us. I’m glad you finally went to the doctor for an MG. It’s better to know now rather than when it’s too late.

    Stephen Hopsons last blog post..Stephen Hopson Interview with Lance of Jungle of Life, Part II of II

  6. Katie Naughton
    Katie Naughton says:

    Karen, Thank you for writing about Jill. I’ve never been so upset about someone passing that I never met in person. It’s unbelievable to me. She was so helpful and wonderful voice of reason and knowledge.

  7. Heather
    Heather says:


    thank you for sharing this…I too know of you and Jill from Listen Up. I’m a reader from way back 🙂

    Lighting a candle now!

  8. Barbara Young
    Barbara Young says:


    Be disciplined to the annual MG since I lost my mother and friend who communicated with me in signs since I was young teenager. It is different world without her more quieter and less socializing.

  9. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Karen – what a lovely post. I still am feeling kind of lost – Listen-up just doesn’t seem the same without her.

    Thanks for posting this – it’s beautiful.


  10. Karen
    Karen says:

    Thank you Karen for this wonderful tribute to Jill! I feel like I know her even though we never met face-to-face. I am still heartbroken over the thought of our list, this world and especially her family losing such an extraordinary woman, friend, and mother.

  11. Ann
    Ann says:

    I have just heard that Jill is gone. It is an intense feeling for someone that I had never met in person. I cannot express any more eloquently than anyone else how special she was, but she an exceptional voice. She could tell her story in a way that helped you take your next step. I hoped my son could be like hers. I appreciated her perspective on how husbands & fathers deal with hearing loss (and that it was okay if they did it differently). She was energetic, generous, clear spoken, and invariably, I always was interested in what she had to say. For Larry, Katie & Ian, I am so very sorry for your loss. She rocked!

  12. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    I’m overwhelmed right now with just learning the news, due to computer issues. I have never been so effected about someone passing that I never met. Jill taught me so very much and helped me in a way that I am ever so grateful for. Jill was a rock to me when I didn’t know where to turn, she helped me more than words to express…This article sums it up perfectly she was EXTRAORDINIARE in so many ways. She will be truly missed by so many that she touched. The knowledge and wisdom and wit she shared was truly amazing. She was a truly amazing person and I truly learned so much from her wisdom and strength. She taught things that I could do that I didn’t even know I had in me. She was truly amazing and will be deeply missed. She will hold a special place in my heart forever.

  13. Heather
    Heather says:

    Oh No. This is so sad. I haven’t been reading Listen-up for a few months and had no idea. Jill was the first person on the list to greet me. She took the time to send me a personal email that was so heartfelt and comforting. She taught me very early on that just because my son was deaf didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be able to reach his full potential. She took away the fear and injected humor in ways that few people could ever do. She was the most intelligent and articulate woman, yet she had a wicked sense of humor and found lightness in just about everything. What a woman indeed.

    Heathers last blog post..Snow Day!

  14. Allie
    Allie says:

    I couldn’t believe it when I found out about Mrs.Jill. She was my “Mommy Number 2” when I was not allowed by court to see my mom. I was extremely close to her, but moved away and never saw her again.

    R.I.P Mrs. Jill. <3

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