“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Well, there you have it. “Where The Popsicles Are” has come to an end. I tried to heed the King’s advice to the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,‘ but I remain surprised that it took me this long, or that the story ended up being this long.
The first post of this narrative was on Valentine’s Day of February, 2013, so it has taken me a full year, and upwards of 150-thousand words to get to this point. As a journalist who wrote for TV and radio news, and newspapers, I have never written this much on any given subject in my life.
I suppose I could blame Joanie, for it was her suggestion a couple of years before she died that I write some columns on what I had learned about being a caregiver during the time I had been helping her with the ordeal she had faced over the years.
I tried to put some things together back then, but soon realized that I couldn’t write about what I had learned without telling how I came to learn it, and soon it became Joanie’s story.
This was something of a dark story. The problem I faced was how to tell a story that most readers knew how it ended. I tried to show there was a light that was woven through all of the darkness surrounding Joanie’s battle with cancer, and that light was her courage, dignity, faith and determination. If I succeeded in that effort or not, I leave to the judgement of others. What I do know is that I tried.
What happens next with this project? I’m first going to have to get this into some kind of manuscript form, and find an editor, or some other neutral party to look at it, and provide the kind of critical judgement regarding style, substance and other aspects that only an objective reviewer can provide a writer. I am not so confident in my ability to think that I don’t need an editor to help me polish, what is in my mind, a first draft. That it needs refinement and further work, as far as I’m concerned, goes without saying.
I’m the last one who can judge right now if this work is worth publishing or not. That I will leave to the opinion of others.
As I approached the final postings of what had come to be known as “The Popsicle” story, I found my self feeling ambivalent about ending it. I know that there were some days when I could have been writing, I would find an excuse to not do so. If it could be put off for another day or so, I always felt that I was still working on it, and had that to look forward to. I think ending it was the hardest part, for then I would have to find something else to do. I was reminded of Barb Olson’s words to me after Joanie died, when she said, “Bob, you have not just lost Joanie, you have lost a job.” referring to my caregiver role. Maybe by bringing this to a close, I was feeling the same way. But then, I would remember the King’s admonition, and I would sit down and write.
One of the things that struck me as I wandered through the year’s of Joanie’s battle, was the fact that I never cried. I felt helpless, angry, sorry for what she was going through, but never, even during some of the darker times, did I cry. I cried more times during the writing of this story over the last year than I did during the whole twelve years of her battle. I guess I contribute that to the fact that I felt when she was going through her trials, my job was to remain calm and positive and supportive, and the last thing she needed to see was me losing control.
This project was important to me, but lest anyone think that I haven’t accepted what happened, and am still obsessing about losing Joanie, that is not true. Do I miss her? Yes. Do I think of her often, especially on certain days or times of the year? Yes. Have I moved on? Yes. Was writing this story and reliving it all hard? Yes. All I’m trying to do is tell a story I thought was worth the telling. I did have to wait five years to start to write this tale, but there was never a doubt in my mind that I would do it.
As I’ve said, the purpose of the story was to help someone who didn’t know Joanie learn something about her, what she went through, and how well she handled all of the medical indignities that cancer dealt her. Whether or not I succeeded in that effort is a judgement I leave to others. As for me, with the telling of her story, I learned something about myself as well.
Now then, I’m going to take a chance and name some names, for without these people I might have ended up writing a different story.
These are the names of individuals you have already read about, but I need to highlight them one more time.
Virginia and Ed Stringer.
Dr. Jan Bury, Mid-Dakota Clinic
Nurse Nancy, as I called her, from Dr. Bury’s office.
Dr. Linda Carson, Women’s Health Center, University of Minnesota Hospital.
Dr. Kathyrn Dusenbery, Radiation/Oncology, University of Minnesota Hospital.
Dr. Jonathon Cosin, Women’s Health Center, University of Minnesota Hospital.
Dr. Michael Maddaus, Thoracic Surgeon, University of Minnesota Hospital.
Dr. M. Roy Thomas, Oncology, St. Alexius Medical Center. Ed and Nancy Schafer.
Ed and Nancy Schafer
John and Mikey Hoeven.
Jack and Betsy Dalrymple.
Al and Barb Olson
Orell and Cathy Schmitz.
Mary Pat and Tom Woodmansee.
Kristi and Murray Sagsveen.
Kathy Remboldt, Nurse for Dr. Thomas.
Patsy Thompson, Tara Holt and the whole Joanie’s Garden crew.
Ann Chase, Joanie’s sister.
Richard Wigen, Joanie’s brother.
Jane Kallberg Cody
Joni Straley. (My youngest sister, who sadly died just over a year after Joanie.)
The nurses and aides on 7C The Women’s Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota Hospital and the Women’s Health Center.
Dorinda, Joanie’s Home Health and Hospice nurse.
Tom Sand, our friend who sadly died last year.
Stacy, Joanie’s main nurse at the St. A’s Infusion Center.
This list is not just a list of Joanie’s friends, that list would be much, much longer, but this list is of those individuals whose love and care for Joanie, support and generosity, including medical care in Minneapolis and Bismarck, all contributed materially to this story. Without them, there is no doubt in my mind I would have written a completely different story. I could never thank them enough.
Now then, for a shameless plug for the Joan Wigen Endowed Fund for Women’s Cancer Research. That is an endowment that I established about a year after Joanie died, and it was done with the help of Mary Pat Woodmansee and many of her women friends. They put together a fund raiser at Peacock Alley on Saturday in April of 2009, and there was enough raised to ensure that the endowment would be established. Here again, I can’t name all of the contributers, but I can tell them all that the endowment is going strong, and that their gift was appreciated. The fund currently focuses on gynecologic cancers, i.e., cervical, ovarian, uterine cancers, which killed an estimated 26,250 women in 2013. Research and education funds are needed to fund the efforts to combat this disease.
I am taking the liberty of adding the address for the fund, should anyone, as they consider their charitable giving for the year, might think of this one.
The Joan Wigen Endowed Fund for Women’s Cancer Research
Checks should be made out to Fund # 11213, this is the number of the account for the endowment. There is no need to write out the full name of the fund.
Checks can be sent to:
Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota
o/o University of Minnesota Medical Foundation
P.O. Box 860266
Minneapolis, MN 55486-0266
I can almost hear the King, saying, “You’re at the end, get on with it.”
Okay, I know I’m at the end, and I would like to thank all of you who have come along with me for this ride. Your comments and FB ‘Likes” from time to time were all appreciated. I hope I didn’t disappoint.
Again, thank you all for your interest in Joanie’s story. She really was quite a remarkable woman, and I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of her life. I will keep you posted on where “The Popsicle” story goes from here.
Be well, laugh a lot and keep in touch.
Bob, Bailey and Brandy.