Where The Popsicles Are-80

Remembering life B.C.

With the surgery and the radiation behind us, we attempted to return our lives to something we recognized. We had a few weeks before the next appointment, which would be a follow up to both the surgery and the radiation, and it would, we hoped, give us a sign that things had settled down, at least for a while.

The appointment in late July, gave us the sign we were looking for, and that was, to quote from Dr. Carson’s notes, “Currently no evidence of disease recurrence.” With that news, the sun seemed to shine brighter as we left the clinic that day, and made the walk the short two blocks to Sally’s for a celebratory libation. We were both relieved, and when we sat down at one of the tables outside, we looked at each other knowing she had dodged another bullet, and we were going to relish the moment for what it was. What was also encouraging was that Dr. Carson didn’t need to see her for another three months.

Good news like that has the effect of making you forget everything that has gone before, if even for a brief moment. In Joanie’s case, she immediately went into a flurry of activity surrounding the re-election campaign of her boss, John Hoeven. That became her focus.

Part of the dynamic of dealing with a disease like cancer is that once you are faced with the battle it becomes all consuming, and there is a real danger of forgetting what life was like before cancer (B.C.) What it does is concentrate all of your emotional energy on the moment, and one has a tendency to forget what was important B.C. and what was viewed as normal, B.C.

As I reflected on these last eight years, I could see there were things that we did differently because of the cancer and what Joanie had gone through, and there were things we didn’t do anymore. Time was when if we decided to got to Minneapolis, which we did for many years, even before we were married, we just did it. Throw some clothes in the car and head down the road. We didn’t do that anymore.

The reality of the Miami Pouch and the colostomy also played a part in our activity now. What had seemed so abnormal six years ago, had now become such a part of our life, it seemed normal. There was, however a consideration we had to deal with we didn’t before. So, in a sense it dictated to a degree our activity and how we planned for any travel.

As far as Joanie was concerned, her daily work life wasn’t affected that much. As I look at her calendars from those years, it was as if there was nothing wrong at all. The only things that stuck out were the entries on dates when she had to have a CT scan, or blood drawn or she had an appointment in Minneapolis with Dr. Carson or Dr. Dusenbery. All of the rest of the entries had to do with her job with the Hoeven Committee, the church or meetings associated with friends. Her life was normal, and that meant busy.

What sticks out in my mind not only about this period, but since the beginning, was that Joanie had an innate ability to get on with life in spite of the disease, something any psychologist or counselor would have approved of. She did it without knowing it was what she was supposed to do to maintain her mental health, and she did it without being told she should.

We never talked about what we were missing because of this disease, or how our lives had changed since it so rudely intruded. The fact was, we weren’t missing much, and what was important B.C., was still important.

Her appointment in early December was another good one. Those magic words from Carson once again said, “…no evidence of recurrent disease.” It was going to be a good Christmas, and maybe, just maybe, starting in 2005 we’d get a glimpse of what life A.C. might look like.


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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