Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.
Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.

Exceptional care inspires planned gift to gynecologic oncology

Steaming beaker and pipette in the lab

Summer 2024
By Brittany Flaherty
Photography by Bryce Vickmark

Despite all she’s been through, Jill Altman considers herself lucky. For nearly half her life, Jill has had run-ins with cancer—starting when she was diagnosed with low-malignant potential ovarian cancer in 1996 at just 22 years old. Jill received a total hysterectomy and at first was told she didn’t need chemotherapy. When that recommendation shifted and Jill’s family began to encounter conflicting advice from doctors close to home in New York, a friend suggested they go to Dana-Farber. There, a meeting with Ursula Matulonis, MD, chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the Brock-Wilson Family Chair at Dana-Farber, changed everything.

“Up until that point, no one had taken the time to explain anything to us,” said Jill’s father, Frank Altman. “The culture at Dana-Farber was so incredible. They were willing to listen. They cared.” Jill agreed. “We were immediately comfortable at Dana-Farber,” she said. “We knew we were home.”

Matulonis was familiar with Jill’s rare form of cancer and, along with colleagues including Michael Muto, MD, director of the Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Matulonis confirmed that Jill did not need chemotherapy. Instead, she recommended that Jill continue to be seen and go on living her life. Jill did just that, soon getting married and becoming a stepmother.

“I wanted to have a positive impact on other women going through this. We believe in Dana-Farber.”

Jill Altman
Jill Altman
Jill Altman

In 2012, 16 years after her initial surgery, Jill was diagnosed with low-grade serous carcinoma and underwent surgery to remove her spleen. Then in 2018, she developed pain in her clavicle and felt a lump. Jill and her family once again received frightening and conflicting recommendations. But this time, they knew who to trust.

“We went back to Ursula and she immediately knew what to do,” said Jill. “It sounds weird to say, but I had the best time. Dana-Farber is a fantasy land.”

Jill received pinpoint radiation, working with Matulonis and radiation oncologist Larissa Lee, MD, who spent hours on the phone with Jill explaining this treatment. The approach worked wonderfully, and Jill has been healthy ever since. Sadly in 2021, Lee passed away from gastrointestinal cancer—a devastating loss to many, including Jill.

Inspired by Lee, Matulonis, and her care at Dana-Farber, Jill decided to make a significant bequest to the Institute in memory of Lee. Half of the funds will support Matulonis’ gynecologic oncology research, and the other half will provide crucial unrestricted support to drive key Institute initiatives. Jill hopes for more research about her specific type of cancer and more happy outcomes.

“I wanted to have a positive impact on other women going through this and knew I could do something,” said Jill. “We believe in Dana-Farber.”

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