Joanne & her husband Ken
When I was first presented with the opportunity to write about my mother’s journey through Ovarian Cancer, I thought it would not pose near the challenge that it has indeed turned out to pose. Having taken many Creative Writing classes in college and writing countless short stories, poems and articles throughout the years, I thought this would be a breeze. Then it hit me. I would actually have to put into words something that changed that lives of my family and myself forever. On top of that, I would have to attempt to put into words a personality and a life that transcends words and stories. But here goes.
I was with her that first day we stepped into a cancer facility. The previous week she had been having heart palpitations and the doctor called her back in to discuss some results of tests or something they saw on an x-ray. I really didn’t think anything of it and, of course, agreed to accompany her. After some time sitting in that tiny room listening to the doctors and nurses discuss their weekend plans, the doctor finally emerged and gave vague explanations and more questions than answers. He then directed us to the Cancer Floor of the clinic. There must be some other reasonable explanation besides Cancer, right? The doctor said things and we listened in a fog of disbelief and surrealism then the sudden realization of the true potential gravity of the situation hit us, and we hugged each other and cried.
One of the many truly remarkable things about my mother was that this was one of only a few times throughout the journey that I witnessed her cry. After that moment, one of her most admirable qualities, her strength came out and she was determined to fight tooth and nail to beat Ovarian Cancer. Everyone that knew Jo had every reason to believe that she would succeed. She was the women that spent decades as a 4 foot 10 inch geriatric nurse lifting patients in and out of beds and wheelchairs. She was the women that would drag hoses around the yard day in and day out during the summer heat to tend to one of the most beautiful flower gardens imaginable. This was a woman full of strength and conviction, and she did things even when she was sick and exhausted from chemotherapy.
It wasn’t just her strength of body that convinced her family and friends that she could beat it, it was also her strength in spirit. Her humor and wit were unparalleled. After she would stop telling you that you didn’t have to come sit with her during chemotherapy, the room would be filled with true laughter. She had amazing stories to tell of life on the farm with her brothers and sister. She would recount for me stories from my brothers’ and my childhood as well as revel in the love she had with her grandchildren and their mother, her daughter-in-law. Laughter has always been at every Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday, Mother’s Day and every other day spent with nieces, nephews, cousins, aunt, uncles, and friends.
It was that humor and strength that truly bounded family and friends together as we watched her end her battle with Ovarian Cancer. She kept fighting until the very end and we kept laughing through the tears until the very end as we recounted the wonderful stories that she will leave with each one of us. I think about my mother every day, as I know many people do, and am thankful for every minute of our journey together.
Amy Sudbeck about her mother Joanne Sudbeck