From the archives: This story was last updated in November 2019.
For many couples who have just been dating, a cancer diagnosis could put a big hold on the relationship if not scuttle it entirely. It’s hard to know how long a person will need treatment and what the future might hold. So when Jillian Hanson found out in July 2017 that she had stage 1 breast cancer, everything was up in the air, including her relationship with boyfriend Max Allegretti.
When doctors removed two of her lymph nodes, they found that her cancer was more advanced than they had previously thought. “I brought it to the table and told him this was going to be a lot,” Jillian explained to Good Morning America. She told Max that she would understand if he wanted “out.” As she wrote in a profile for LLG Events, “He told me he would never leave my side and he never did.”
The couple stayed together throughout the difficult journey throughout chemotherapy, including Jillian losing her hair, and on the last day of her treatment, she got a big surprise when Max proposed to her at the hospital. This would only be equaled by luxury wedding planner Lauren Grech offering the couple a free designer wedding.
Jillian and Max had known each other for a while before they started dating, meeting at college in her senior year. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that he asked her out to the movies. “I knew he was the one after a month of us dating. I never usually move that fast, but something about him was different,” she wrote.
The couple were excited about their future, but the news of Jillian’s cancer was devastating and the road to recovery arduous. “I also had 16 rounds of chemotherapy for 5 months, plastic surgery, 25 rounds of radiation for 5 weeks, and now I am finishing infusion treatments that I do every three weeks.” Throughout her treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital Monmouth, Max was there for her. “He told me that I was the strongest woman he knew and that this whole experience has made him love me more.”
Video courtesy of: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
But Max didn’t just talk a big talk; he proved his love and loyalty by being there day in and day out. “They tell you how sick you get during treatment, but no one can really prepare you for any of this,” Jillian wrote in her profile. “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.”
Max was focused on doing whatever he could to help Jillian feel special even as she went through the worst of it. “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 Good Morning America.
As Jillian’s chemo treatment was coming to a successful end, he planned the biggest surprise of all for her. “I was thinking about it for a long time,” Max told Good Morning America. “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.”
Jillian was already excited about having her friends and family gathered around her to celebrate her last day being in the hospital. In a video taken by the hospital, Jillian thanked her carers, both professional and personal. “When [the days] have been really, really bad, they don’t seem as bad,” she said, because of being surrounded by loved ones.
Then came the moment when Max sprang the question, and Jillian was overcome with emotion. She took the ring and was congratulated by the whole cancer ward staff. She told Good Morning America, “That was the ultimate high—getting engaged brought great light to me after a really dark spot.”