Where The Popsicles Are-62

Change that didn’t feel like change.

Joanie went to work at Tourism, March 21, 2001, and she did it with the same sense of responsibility she brought to any job. All of a sudden, her focus was completely on what she was doing, and her schedule showed it. She became so busy, she didn’t have time to think about cancer, or anything else.

She was reveling in her new job, and getting up early in the morning to get to work. It was also a busy time at Trinity Lutheran, and she was heavily involved in their building project. Her zest for life, was evident, and it was like she was going to wring as much as she could out of each day. I think, in the back of her mind, it was because she knew something that most of us don’t, and that is how fragile this whole thing is. I don’t know if she had ever heard the Latin expression, “carpe diem,” but that is how she was living. It was great to see it happening.

She was healthy both physically and emotionally, and even those who knew her medical history never gave it a thought anymore. She was just alive.

Our summers were filled with parties by the pool, and spending time with friends and family. I had all but stopped doing research on cancer on the computer, and by 2001 was at work creating The Lewis and Clark Golf Trail, an idea that came from a brunch at Cathy Rydell’s place in Eden Prairie with Al and Barb Olson. Al, who was an avid golfer suggested there had to be a way to piggy back on the Lewis and Clark celebration that was coming since we had two world class golf courses on both sides of the trail, The Links of North Dakota and Hawktree. I came back to Bismarck and got to work on it, and the Lewis and Clark Golf Trail was born. Life was busy, and it was good.

We still had to make trips to see Dr. Carson, and she was feeling so good, those didn’t bother her like they used to. From 1999 through 2002, visits to the clinic were only about every three or four months. The news was always the same, good, now go and enjoy life. It got to a point it was the news we expected every time.

In her new job with Tourism, she would be on road a lot, and all I did was make sure when she was going to be gone for more than a day, that her bag had all she would need to deal with. I also tried to encourage her, while she was home and the colostomy needed to be changed to give it a try in case she was out of town and it needed to be done. She would look at me just like she did every time I made that suggestion, and didn’t give it a try.

The year, 2001 flew by, and it wasn’t to far into 2002 when change came calling again. This time, early May, Joanie came home and told me she had gotten a call from John, and he wanted to meet with her. There had been some change in the Hoeven Committee, and our guess was he was going to ask her to come back.

We sat at home, and I asked her what she was going to do if he asked her to do that. She said she didn’t know. On the one hand, she had a job she really liked, with benefits and a good salary, but, on the other hand he was the governor, and if he wanted her to come back, she would have to consider it. She did tell me she didn’t want to take a pay cut, and also there was the issue of paying for health insurance. She told me she would make a decision after she talked to him, but I knew what the answer was already. I told her what ever decision she made was okay with me.

A couple of days later she came home around five and had this smile on her face, and told me she had just come from a meeting with John, and she told him she would come back. He told her they would match her salary, and make a provision for paying her health care premium. She told me, “He wanted me to come back, and how do you say no to the governor?” I just smiled and told her I knew what she was going to do when she told me that John wanted to meet with her. So, on the 17th of May, 2002, it was her last day at Tourism, and come Monday, it would be back into the political arena.

The decision to go back to work for John and Mikey Hoeven was an important one, and one she never regretted. Her loyalty to them would be returned in kind by their loyalty to her.


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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