The Girls & Loss

She lived her life and loved it well. What are her “girls” thinking now? Jenny and Todd have had three “rescue” dogs for years. The dogs’ names don’t matter; all I can hear is Jenny saying, “Come on, girls – time for your walk.” Now, I wonder how “the girls” are feeling with Jenny gone…(I had trouble writing that word.)

Voices are very big with me. Jenny had one of those distinct voices – in a very good way. It was a clear voice; a high voice and always (when I heard it) a happy and joyful voice. During our visit exactly a year ago Doug, Adam and I along with Jenny, Todd (the girls), Ron, Iris, their sons, Jake and Ethan and other relatives and friends spent Passover together. There was more laughing and storytelling and the food was ample. Jenny was tired but optimistic as she faced more treatments in the following weeks. Her routine was clear and non-negotiable: she worked out, she had special therapy she felt was good for her mind and soul and she loved planning more trips.

I remember stopping in her open office in their home and noticing the books that all talked of hope and survival. The greeting cards of love and hope – dozens of cards- were taped all around her glorious kitchen where she loved to cook and entertain.

No, I didn’t know her well, but I know I will miss the chance now to know her better. I will think often of Todd and “the girls.” I’ll hope for his healing after this stunning and painful loss he and her family have suffered.  But all of us who knew her feel blessed to have spent a little time with her and felt the love that she felt toward life, her “Toddles” and “the girls.”

“Jenny sees where she’s going;

After a journey so long.

A fight she knew would have some meaning – with so much courage;

Despite the odds.

Her Toddles-her girls-her family-her friends –

Made her smile and laugh that laugh that only means

pure Jenny.”

Rest well.

Too many losses

Gary Pappa, 1954-2009
Gary Pappa, 1954-2009

 Another well-known media personality is gone in Philadelphia. Gary Papa fought the good fight against prostate cancer for more than five years and died today, June 19. I knew Gary as a collaegue in the newsroom. As he started at Action News, 6ABC in 1981, I was spending a short time there as a newswriter. Through the years, I met him at various events. There was always a smile on his face; pep in his step and always a kind word. Watching Channel 6’s newscast tonight was a treat, getting to see old packages Gary filed years ago; clips from back-and-forth between him, anchor Jim Gardner and weather guy Dave Roberts and others was certainly a trip down memory lane. Few remember that Gary was launched into prominence when Channel 6 and Don Tollefson parted ways. That’s the way TV and radio go. One way or another, you move on. Gary stepped in along with Scott Palmer (a true gentleman as well). One thing Channel 6 has always done well is portray the brand as a team. Everyone plays on that team, and does it well. The people who work behind the scenes at 6ABC never get any credit, but without the writers, producers, field producers, camera people, editors and so many others, there would be no Action News. Gary did a great job of working with the teams and players and making the viewer feel as though they were really getting to know what was going on inside the story. Sports is an area in broadcast news where you can let your colors show a little. Gary surely did that. Though sports coverage can range from overkill to maudlin to underdone, despite that, Garry Papa always had a good way of telling people a story. That’s what very good broadcasters do..tell a story. Tonight, Dave Roberts talked a bit about how Gary talked with his hands. That was how he got his message across. He wasn’t just reading the words as so many anchors do. He was telling you what was going on.
Remember the passion and love Gary had for the game, his Channel 6 family and certainly his wife and two sons. We remember fondly and thank him for being a communicator to us for so many years. Peace.

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.