Like the Tragically Hip's Gord Downie, an Ottawa area mom is also battling brain cancer and meeting it with a ferocity and positivity that has warmed the hearts of our CTV viewers.

33-year-old Jillian O'Connor was given just two years to live; that "anniversary" passed last week.  Jillian was pregnant with her third child when she was diagnosed with cancer.  Her fans are pint-sized; her three kids that give her the inspiration to live each day to the fullest.

It is the simple moments that Jillian O'Connor treasures, getting 4-year -old Mila ready for senior kindergarten.  Watching 3-year-old Landon try to ride his bike.  Or holding 18-month-old Declan, still warm and sleepy eyed from a nap.

“Every day is just a gift now from here on out,” says Jillian, “every day is like having an extra day with my or an extra two days so that every day that goes by, I feel so super lucky to be here with them.  So every day is borrowed time.”

Two years ago, Jillian, pregnant with her 3rd baby, was given a devastating diagnosis: incurable breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes and liver. 

Ottawa oncologist Dr. Mark Clemons, a leading cancer researcher at the Ottawa Hospital, offered a medical miracle; an opportunity to undergo chemotherapy while pregnant in order to see her baby born.

Fast forward a year and a half.  Declan is healthy and growing.  Sadly, so too is Jillian's cancer, now in her brain as she discovered just three weeks ago.  But still, despite all that, her optimism remains.   She credits her husband and her kids.

“I think it makes it easy to carry on and forget what's actually happening and see the world through their eyes and live through them,” she says as she sits on the floor, toys spilled all over, watching them play.

For her doctor, the real miracle has been Jillian herself. 

“Declan is now 18 months old,” says Dr. Clemons, “he is doing well and Jillian and Declan's story has touched the heart of so many people.”

In fact, a theatrical group called the Indie Women Productions is hosting a musical comedy in Perth to help raise funds for the O’Connor family. The “Bingo Ladies” opens tonight at the Studio Theatre Perth at 7:30 p.m. with 20% of the ticket sales and 100% of the proceeds of the silent auction to go towards the O’Connors.

Cindy Bates is the show director, “We wanted to come up with a project where we could make her family the beneficiary; whatever can be done to support them going forward.”


Jillian will be at the opening production tonight, thankful for the support and still optimistic about the future.

“We will have to see what’s in store for me next,” she says.

Dr. Clemons stresses that cancer during pregnancy is rare occurring in perhaps one in three thousand pregnancies.  For the Ottawa area, that means 1 or 2 women a year. 

The Bingo Ladies runs until August 28th with matinee performances August 21 and 28th at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $28 and available through or