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Paving the Way for Breast Cancer Survivors

Philanthropy will empower patients on the road to recovery


hen Jacquie Williams was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in 2007, she recognized that she didn’t have much time to wait for an appointment. A friend recommended Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at UHealth – the University of Miami Health System. Williams was able to secure an appointment quickly.

“The team at Sylvester opened the doors in a way for me that was responsive to my needs,” she said. “They weren’t just my care providers. They were a family that really helped me through my journey.”

Even during the most challenging parts of her treatment, including overnight stays at Sylvester for infusions, Williams always appreciated the outstanding care she received.

“As rough as chemotherapy was, I was so well cared for, and the facilities were so impressive that it felt like I was staying at a hotel, not a hospital,” she says. “I just knew that if I was going to survive this, it was going to be because of Sylvester.”

Thirteen years later, Williams is still grateful for that care and compassion — care she still receives at Sylvester today as a cancer survivor.

“I always feel like an individual there, never like just another patient or a number,” she said. “I’d become so close with each of my care teams that I almost regretted moving on from each treatment. I got radiation every day, and when I completed that treatment, I just thought to myself, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

Williams also got to know the many other women and men in the waiting room with her between appointments. “It’s like a community,” she said. “I made friendships that I’ve kept to this day. I’m just so grateful for the experience I had.”

Recently, she demonstrated that gratitude by dedicating her life insurance policy to endow the Jacqueline C. Williams Endowed Breast Cancer Survivorship Research Fund at Sylvester.

“Sylvester has made a big impact on my life,” Williams said. “I received the best care there and had access to the best technology. That’s something women should have at every stage of their journey and something that I hope to support with this gift.”

Jacquie Williams

Empowering survivors

The Jacqueline C. Williams Endowed Breast Cancer Survivorship Research Fund will focus on survivorship care — the patient’s journey once they’ve completed primary treatment. Advances in early detection and treatments have led to significant improvements in survival rates among many cancer patients.

Frank Penedo, Ph.D.

“Breast cancer survivors are living longer, and that’s great news,” said Frank Penedo, Ph.D., associate director for cancer survivorship and translational behavioral sciences at Sylvester and professor of psychology and medicine at UM’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. “For many survivors, however, that longevity comes with multiple challenges such as treatment-related side effects like fatigue, pain and sexual dysfunction, fear of recurrence, or the stress in having to transition back to ‘regular’ life roles after cancer treatments end.

“It’s gifts like Ms. Williams’ that will allow us to implement comprehensive survivorship care and research programs that address the physical, social, and emotional needs of our survivors,” he added.

Those programs will range from strengthening psychosocial support programs, improving patient-centered care with strategic investments in technology-based assessment and intervention, and bringing more providers to Sylvester to help women navigate common after-effects of treatment.

For Williams, that’s good news.

“When you go through something like a cancer diagnosis and treatment and have the opportunity to give back, you want to recognize those who’ve helped you on your way,” she said. “And to help those who come after you — well, that’s an important part of anyone’s journey.”

The bequest Williams has provided through her estate plan is the most popular and tangible way to leave a lasting impact on the Miller School of Medicine and UHealth. With many giving options, the staff of the Office of Estate and Gift Planning can help you find the right charitable vehicle that matches your financial circumstances and fulfills your philanthropic goals.

To learn more about making a planned gift or for help with sample bequest language, please contact John Scibek at, 305.608.6576, or visit our website at