Newsmakers Making A Difference: Jill Swanson, Lemons Of Love

Lisa Fielding
June 28, 2018 - 10:15 am

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The vacuums are on overdrive as a cleaning crew puts the finishing touches on an 1,800 square-foot building on the corner of Central and Northwest Highway in Mount Prospect.

"Our grand opening, open house is coming up on July 14," said Jill Swanson, Founder, CEO, Lemons of Love.

Swanson takes a walk around the future home of a cancer support center for survivors like her.

"In 2014, I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer," she recalls, shaking her head. 

"I went through six,seven months of chemo at Kellogg Cancer Center at Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview. I was 47. I actually went in for a cough, and thought it was allergies. My doctor did a chest X-ray, but she said something was going on. I had blood drawn and my Hemoglobin was at six, which means that half of the blood in my body was gone. It was making me cough, the blood wasn't circulating around my lungs. I had to have a blood transfusion. A GI doctor came in and give me an endoscopy. Sure enough, I had a tumor on the right side." 

During her several months of chemotherapy, she started bringing care packages for her fellow patients.

"I packed a bunch of gifts filled with stuff that I was using. Lemon Drops, Ginger Tea, and I handed them out in the waiting room. I spent a lot of money doing it, but it was the best thing I ever did. It gave me a reason to want to go back," Swanson said. 

That's how Lemons of Love was born.

"I made people's day. I made people's day. I made people feel," she said.

Those care packages were soon being sent all over the world. 

"Fast forward, not even four years later, we've given out 8,000 packages everywhere. We send to anybody who knows someone who's going through chemo," Swanson said. 

Lemons of Love

The packages are filled with lemon drops, ginger tea bags, organic lotion, super hero socks, tissue, chocolate covered blueberries, nuts & lemonade.

"Lemon drops because your mouth tastes like metal when going through chemo. Your taste buds go away. It helps take away the metal taste. Ginger tea is for upset stomachs. The lotion because your skin dries because of chemo and blueberries hate cancer," she laughed. 

In April 2017, Swanson purchased the building in Mount Prospect which will be a place to pack those care packages, a place for cancer survivors, and their loved ones to go for support groups, massages, yoga, and even a shaving station.

"We're going to be doing private head shavings," she said. "When somebody's diagnosed with cancer and their hair if falling out in clumps, they don't want to go to a salon. We'll have a private stylist taking care of you." 

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Now in remission, Swanson said she could've never believed her life would've taken this trajectory.

"I call it my making lemonade project. Life gave me lemons and I wanted to make something good out of it," she said. "I feel good that I've taken my story, shared it, grown it and have been able to help others."

And she's already looking to expand the program. 

"Part of me is sad that it's growing, because that means that many more people are going through chemo, that many more people are fighting cancer, that many people's lives are touched by cancer, but I'm glad that we can support our local cancer community and grow to help others," Swanson said.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Swanson said Lemons and Love and the new resource enter is about promoting peace and healing.

"Our whole goal with Lemons of Love is to brighten a cancer patients day. That's what we do with the care packages and we hope to do the same with this center."

The 501c3 relies on private fundraising. 

Lemons of Love opens on July 14. For more information, lemonsoflove.org

As WBBM celebrates its 50th anniversary as Newsradio, this year we’ll be honoring 50 Newsmakers making a difference in the community.  Listen for reports each Tuesday.

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