Where The Popsicles Are-15

Life settles down, just a bit.

From the beginning, living with cancer in our midst, had been very intense, stressful and disappointing as we struggled to find our way on the path from diagnosis to treatment. Now, with Joanie entering a treatment regimen, we were both feeling that something positive was happening, even though we had no guarantee of what the outcome would be.

Joanie and I talked every day. She was in St. Paul, and I was in Bismarck, back at work and taking care of Muffin and Peaches. She was getting her radiation every day, and since that only took 15 or 20 minutes, not counting travel time to and from the hospital, she had  time on her hands. I could tell that when we talked. He voice would have a wistful quality at times that told me she was lonely, even though Ginny and Ed were there to help her make it through the evenings, and Piper, her three legged friend, was there to help her make it through the day.

I know she talked to the campaign headquarters often, and was missing her daily involvement in Gov. Ed Schafer’s re-election campaign. I know she missed being there because she told me so.

Time weighed heavily on her, but she had gotten into a daily routine in just a few short days, that she seemed comfortable with. She had also come to terms with the idea that this process wasn’t going to go as swiftly as she would like, but she believed it was going to be the answer.

I drove down to St. Paul to spend that first weekend with her, and when Sunday afternoon rolled around, she didn’t want me to leave. I stayed as long as I could, and then about six o’clock I told her that if I was going to be home by midnight, I’d better get going. She knew that, but it didn’t stop the tears as we hugged, and I walked to the car, and headed for the Interstate and the long road back to Bismarck. We both felt the pangs of regret that she wasn’t able to come with me, or that I couldn’t stay there with her. There was also a sense of loneliness we shared, and the silence that greeted me when I got home was palpable, and even though I knew it was temporary, I could feel it.

In the back of our minds that weekend was the first of the radiation implants, in just over two weeks. We didn’t really know what to expect, except she would have to be in the hospital for three days. We agreed that I would come down one more weekend, and then I would be there for the implant and hospital stay.

The uncertainty and fear of the first few weeks was giving way to resignation, and acceptance of the changing circumstances of our lives. Now, it was the goal of finishing the 26 sessions of radiation and the implants that was forefront in our minds, but lacking was the intensity that had been present before. You find your mind has a way of protecting you from a period of protracted stress by introducing resignation and acceptance. Otherwise, unprotected, you might go mad.

Your mind also has a way of shifting your focus. You go from the focus on what happened, which is of no use, to what’s going on now, which is more productive, and makes dealing with the current situation, scary as it is, easier. It becomes your job as a caregiver to help your patient keep that same focus.

The way we looked at it then was that while our lives were being disrupted by the threat of this cancer, and it would be another five weeks before it could return to anything resembling normal, we were confident it would.

No one was more sure of that than Joanie.

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About Bob Kallberg

Retired reporter. Concentrating now on recounting Joanie's 12 year battle with cancer, a battle she waged with extreme courage, determination and an indomitable spirit, that, for me, serves as an example.
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