Some good times, and some change.
January 1, 1999, ushered in a period of good times. Times that reminded us of what life was like before the intensity of the previous two years. That is not to say, we forgot about the cloud, it was just that it no longer dominated our conciousness all the time. It was only when we were getting ready for another appointment that it came to the foreground, and after a successful appointment, it was another stop at Sally’s, or dinner with Ginny and Ed, or Al and Barb, or Cathy Rydell. Those evenings, coming after good news from Dr. Carson were always some of the best of times.
The discussion Joanie and I had back in late February, 1998, about not letting this disease control our lives was working, even though we never talked about it after that time. It was obvious to me she was not going to be held hostage by something over which she had no control.
The Miami Pouch and the colostomy had become second nature, and presented no problem except on a couple of occasions. One such time came when she came home later than usual. She had been busy in her office, and also was involved with the church council and the development of a new addition. When she got home, she went to the bathroom to empty the pouch, something she told me she hadn’t done for some time. In a minute, she called me and told me she was having trouble with the catheter.
I went in, and saw that the Red Robinson, which was a soft, pliable catheter, couldn’t penetrate past the flap. It would be inserted in her naval, and would just bend around and come back out. I began to feel uneasy, and suggested we try one of the stiffer catheters we had in stock. That didn’t work either. She kept trying, and kept getting more anxious. We both knew, the pouch was full, and the pressure on the flap was to much for the catheter. The concern I had was that the bladder wasn’t so full that it was leaking internally.
I kept her calm, and we kept trying, until I finally told her we were going to the Emergency Room. She reluctantly agreed. Fortunately that night the doctor on call was a urologist who was familiar with the pouch. They first did an ultrasound to determine there had been no leaking, and then the went to work on getting a catheter inserted so they could drain the pouch. That was to be the only time we ever had to deal with that problem from then on. On days when I knew she was really busy, and would likely not take the time needed, I would call and remind her.
The colostomy only presented a worrisome problem on one occasion. We were at Menard’s one Saturday morning, in line waiting to check out when she whispered to me the seal had broken. I just moved our cart out of line, and we walked out of the store and headed for the car. We made it home without incident, and I was able to make the change without any problem. The seal would break other times, but they were always at home.
I changed it at least once a week, and would often tell her she should be getting in the habit of doing it herself. I would ask her what she would do if something happened to me or I wasn’t there to change it. She would just shrug her shoulder and ignore the question.
Joanie had gone back to work full time, and since Ed was believed to be running for a third term as governor, she went back with a renewed focus. That belief, of course, would be put to bed later in the year when to her surprise he announced he was not going to run. This brought her up short, because she all of a sudden faced an uncertain future. However, that uncertainty was short lived when John Hoeven came calling and recruited her to go to work on his convention campaign.
One of the highlights of 2000 came when Nancy Schafer hosted a surprise birthday party for Joanie at the residence. I had been enlisted in the plan of getting Joanie to the residence, and it came at some risk for me. I had produced a video on Ed’s years as governor that was shown at the convention, and we had copies made. Nancy called Joanie, and told her they were going to be going to the lake in Minnesota on Friday, and asked if she could have me drop some of the tapes off at the residence.
Now, you have to understand Joanie. She told me she wanted me to drop those tapes off to Nancy in the early afternoon. I didn’t, and when I picked her up, I started driving to the residence, and when she asked me why, I told her I had to drop off the tapes. She became pissed immediately, thinking I had kept the governor and first lady from heading for the lake. I didn’t say anything, just took the box of tapes up to the door and Nancy answered. She then told me to get Joanie, she wanted to show her the remodeling job that had been done. Joanie looked at me, and I knew I was in trouble, and she apologized to Nancy for the tapes being late in being delivered. Nancy told her to never mind, and took her in and headed for a close door beyond which a group of her friends were waiting, and when the door opened, and she heard the collective shout of, “Surprise,” her face reddened, and she couldn’t believe what she was seeing, and as happened often when she was really happy, the tears came. It was a great evening, with Ed tending the grill and making burgers, and Joanie every so often looking around and shaking her head. It had been a success, and by the time we got home that night, she wasn’t mad at me anymore.
Nancy, Ed and Joanie at her surprise party, 2000
John would go on to win the endorsement, and the general election in November 2000, and Joanie would stay on the job with his political committee doing much the same thing she did for Ed, all the time waiting for a job in state government.
John, Joanie and Mikey, election night 2000
She eventually got that job, and in March, 2001, went to work in the state tourism department, a job she came to love, and one she was good at.
When she told me about the job, I was happy for her, and in the back of my mind, I was looking at the calendar. We were now three years out from “the big one,” and over halfway to being called cancer free.