Cancer Sucks! Now that I have your attention… Our friend Jenny has slapped me upside my head for a second time since I have known her. This time, in with her inspiring attitude of hope and healing with ovarian cancer. The “Cancer Sucks” button is pinned to the bag she takes to the doctor. The odds are not good and she and Todd have known that for going on three years. She openly talks about death and during our visit to Colorado, she joked about telling Todd her ashes will be in an urn and put in the closet with her old dogs who have gone to the rainbow in
the sky. She also told Todd she wants some ashes sprinkled all the places they have traveled to (and they’ve been to a LOT of places). Beyond that reality, Jenny lives every day doing exactly what she wants to do. We had a wonderful visit with them over spring break, splitting the time staying in their home in Littleton and at Breckenridge. My husband, Doug, Todd and their other friend Ron grew up together in West Chester County, NY. Life changes took Todd and Jenny and Ron, Iris and their two boys to Colorado at separate times. The two families live about 30 minutes apart. After I lost my job in January, one of the first things I mentioned was we should cancel the Colorado trip. But Doug convinced me the tickets had been bought and paid for weeks earlier and the expense of a car rental wasn’t too terrible. (Funny note: I got to use my AARP discount getting the rental down to $182 for six days!) Seeing Todd and Jenny has been high on our list since her diagnosis before Christmas 2006.
We had just seen them in July that year. Jenny was a huge inspiration for me in latching on to Weight Watchers and being successful. Jenny has always been the picture of health since I’ve known her: healthy choices in the kitchen and her zest for an active lifestyle from skiing and mountain biking to turbo kickboxing class she takes at her local gym. I have to be honest. Seeing Jenny for the first time since 2006 was a shock. Gone was her blond hair; left behind a light covering of gray hair Jenny says was thinning once again following the start of another concoction of chemotherapy drugs. Her skin looked tired and drawn. But once I got past those superficial things, in seconds I could see her bouncing, vivid, blue eyes, her fit body and that booming, higher-pitched voice welcoming us to their home. (I should also note, she didn’t hear the doorbell because she was relaxing in the hot tub on their deck that has a picturesque view of the Continental Divide and Pike’s Peak in the distance.) Her “girls” as Jenny calls the dogs, Sheila and Mildred were barking away as we arrived in their driveway. I couldn’t help but wonder during our visit whether I would see Jenny again. I wanted to soak up all I could of her without being too intrusive. I have only known her through Doug since we were married and have only seen Jenny and the others a handful of times. But these are friends who just drink everyone in. Jenny and Todd seem to love entertaining and having people around. That hasn’t changed even in this crisis. One thing is clear: Jenny is doing exactly what she wants to do at any given time. If she’s tired, she goes to bed; if she wants to ski, she skis. They even bought a new home in Breckenridge, mainly because Jenny had always loved this house. It is indeed, beautiful and comfortable. They went to Hawaii in March to relax and golf. While we were visiting, Todd was looking into a trip to Spain. There’s no time like the present and as Jenny says, “Life is short.”I get a terrible feeling in me as I write that. Part of it is how life is so fragile for all of us. We fret and worry over the simplest things, not the least of which is losing a job. Sure my professional life has changed, but we’re not starving, my husband works hard every day, I seem to be very busy, at least at the moment, on some freelance projects earning me some money along with unemployment. We’re really fine. I walked in to Jenny’s office the morning we left to get a pencil. I wanted also to drink up the “vibe” Jenny seems to send
as she wages this fight against the cancer that sucks. From the lounge chair where her “cancer sucks” bag sits to the bookshelf lined with hope and healing books mixed in with Michael Crichton and Jane Austen books, there is a sense of peace. Jenny remains optimistic. I commented to her how it seemed Ron and Iris’s oldest son, Jake really seems to like her. She told a story of Jake asking whether she was going to die. Jenny explained, yes, she would be dying at some point, but she was going to try her darndest not to die anytime soon. Jenny also told us about all of the doctor visits, the poking, the prodding, the drugs, the tests, tumor marking, stomach-draining. She said she had no idea how people can hold down a full time job and fight cancer at the same time. This IS her full time job. Battling something deep within her, a demon that attacked without warning. We worry about Todd. Both of them are easygoing, but Todd has given up some of his life to focus completely on Jenny. “Whatever Jenny wants, Jenny gets,” is his mantra. They have their three dogs and two cats, his business, two homes and great family and friend support. As we left to travel home, I hugged both of them, whispering to Todd, “Take care of YOU.” This story deserves a happy ending. Jenny has never gotten to remission. There will be more hope and hopefully, much more healing to come. Their spacious kitchen is lined with most, if not all, of the cards of support Jenny has received over these past months. Jenny says it makes her feel good to see that support every single day and feel the love so many people have for Jenny and Todd. Any loss in life sucks..but not as much as cancer. Jenny’s battle has her at a place where she feels good and strong now. Beat that sucker, Jenny. We’re all on the sidelines cheering.