Where The Popsicles Are-93

“No malignant cells identified!”

In the battle with cancer, any small victory gives you another reason to hope. The news that the fluid they took off of Joanie’s right lung with the thoracentisis when she was in the hospital was clear of any malignant cells, was one of those small victories. While it took a week for us to get the results. they were worth waiting for, and for a brief moment on that Monday, both of us had reason to smile.

Joanie was still not eating much solid food, and the incredible trigger that would send her to the bathroom to throw up was still active, but she was feeling better, even if it was slowly, every day. I began taking her to the office in the afternoons just three days after I had brought her home from the hospital.

She would go to her office in the afternoons mostly, and usually would be there for three to four hours, and I would pick her up. John and Mikey Hoeven had told her, just as Ed and Nancy Schafer had told her before, not to worry about her job. She was on the payroll, and would stay on the payroll, and to take whatever time she needed to just get herself healthy. I think they did so, not just because of what she brought to the job she did for both of them during her time with them, but the fact was they loved her for who she was, and was not only a valued employee, but a very good friend.

The strong support of both the Schafers and and the Hoevens made it possible for  her to concentrate on her recovery, and not worry about her livelihood. I can say without fear of contradiction, that support mattered, and I don’t know what would have happened to us considering the length of the battle that was now in its 10th year, had it not been for that kind of support.

The days since I brought her home seemed to fly by, as we approached the end of March, and the first of April. She still wasn’t eating as she should be, and my efforts to change that were not being met with much success. In spite of that she was doing okay, if not 100 percent. We had begun anticipating the next round of chemotherapy, which was to be done on the 11th of April. Joanie and I talked about the possibility that Dr. Thomas, inlight of what had happened after the first round, might want to change the dosage, or drop one of the drugs out of the mix, probably the Ifosfamide. We decided together that we would resist any changes. We figured it this way. This was the exact same protocol that had been successful in 2006, and she had handled it with few after affects, and while it was an agressive treatment, it was an aggressive treatment that was called for considering what we knew we were dealing with right then.

In the mean time, I had a call into Dr. Carson, who was out of her office until the day before the chemo was to start to visit with her about this very issue. Dr. Thomas also wanted to visit with her as well.

The Wig’ns Affair.

As the 11th approached, Joanie got another surprise, this time one that overwhelmed her. Mary Pat Woodmansee, one of Joanie’s closest friends, and other women friends of both of them, organized a fund raiser and it was to be called “The Wig’ns Affair.” Mary Pat, was one of the owners of Peacock Alley at the time, and the event was to be held there on the Saturday afternoon prior to the her next chemo infusion which would come on that following Tuesday.

They were asking everyone who would come to wear some kind of wig, to show Joanie, who, by this time was again wearing the wig Orell and Cathy Schmitz had bought for her in 2003, that she was not alone. It was a good wig, but it really wasn’t anything like the rich, black wavy hair which was her natural mane.

Her brother Richard flew in from San Fransisco, much to her surprise, and my sisters Jane, along with her daughter Vicki, from Fargo and Joni from Avon also showed up for the event. Jane, who custom designs jewelry had made beaded bracelets that spelled out Joanie’s name, and sold every one she brought with her, and took orders for more.

The morning of the event, Joanie wasn’t feeling 100 percent, but was determined to show up, at least for a while. She even gave me cause for concern, when she threw up while brushing her teeth prior to getting ready to go to Peacock that afternoon. Again, the episode wasn’t from nausea, but the hair trigger gag reflex that I had witnessed almost every day since she got home from the hospital. While it perplexed her, it would not deter her from going.

On the way down to Peacock, I told her to conserve her energy. There was going to be a lot of people there, and they were all going to want to talk to her. I told her to just find a place to sit, and let them come to you. They will. I dropped her and her brother off at the door, and went to park the car.

When I walked into Peacock I was amazed at what I saw. There were people there, lots of people, and a good number of them were wearing wigs of many different styles, shapes and colors. It was a sight to behold. I looked around for Joanie, and saw her sitting on a stool near the end of the bar, and she was being visited by everyone who came in.

She was especially glad to see Mikey Hoeven who stopped by, even though she wasn’t wearing a wig. It didn’t matter to Joanie.

Mary Pat, and the others who had organized this event, were all wearing wigs, and I think the raw energy, and the show of love and support for Joanie was everywhere that afternoon, and it was something to see.

I took some photos of the event, and even in the ones with Joanie, you could see she was tired. Even though she was smiling, I could see how tired she was.

Wig'ns 20 Joanie & Mary Pat

Joanie in her wig, and Mary Pat Woodmansee in her wig.

Another of her friends, Bob Wefald, a former Attorney General, who had worked with her on the Trinity Lutheran church council, and was now a District Court Judge, showed up in a wig reminiscent of the wigs worn by English judges he had made out of cotton balls, and it was a hoot.

Wig'ns 3 Here come de judge.

Bob Wefald and Joanie at The Wig’ns Affair.

I kept an eye on Joanie for any signs that she was ready to go, and after about an hour and a half, she motioned me over, and told me she was really tired and needed to go home. I went for the car, and told her brother to bring her to the front door so I could pick her up and take her home.

After I got her home and settled in on the couch, I went back down to Peacock to pick up Richard, and see my sisters, and also, Mary Pat told me she wanted to send dinner home with me in the form of pan blackened prime rib sandwiches with French fries. That night, Joanie did have some of it, and it was the first time since the 14th of March she had eaten anything remotely resembling good solid food. I was encouraged, and I attributed it to the energy and support she had seen for herself that afternoon in Peacock Alley.

My sister Joni had stayed in Bismarck that night, and after her and Richard had left that evening, Joanie said, she couldn’t believe what a day this had been, and how many people turned out that afternoon, wearing wigs. She didn’t understand, or wouldn’t accept the fact it happened because of who she was, and how she was waging this battle. I knew it, but I don’t think she really did, although I know it meant an awful lot 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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