August 27, 2008

Running For Joan

This has been mulling in my head for awhile and today was the day I decided to write it.

I saw Joanie today in school.

Joanie is in her third remission. She has had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) twice and Hodgkin’s disease this last time.

Do you want a humbling perspective on life?

Last year when we realized the cancer was back… again… she said to me, “Bou, please pray for me…” And pray I did. I spent a lot of time with her daughter, who I will call Amy. Her daughter is in band with my boys and there would be times as she waited for her lesson that I’d help her with her math or we’d talk about her Mom and what was going on. I think I’d blogged on some of it here.

There is a Women’s Prayer group at our school, one of which I am not a member, but I’m friends with all of them. We all prayed for Joanie. It was her only request.

And then one day she came up to me after school, she gave me a big hug and said, “Thank you. Thank you so much for praying for me. All the prayers, they worked. I’m so happy. I have Hodgkin’s Disease.”


She was happy she had Hodgkin’s Disease. She was elated. There were near tears of joy.

In the world of Lymphoma… Hodgkin’s Disease is easier to combat than NHL and has a higher incidence of patients staying in remission.

We watched as the side effects of the chemo and other drugs took their toll on her body. She lost her hair… again. The prednisone bloated her up.

Her hair.

She has never worn a wig since I’ve known her. I’ve known her through two of her three battles with cancer and she’s never worn a wig. She’s worn scarves, hats, and gone bald… but never a wig.

I have the most profound respect for her… I am in awe… her bravery in going hairless… not embarrassed or self conscious.

Do you all fully comprehend what a big deal that is?

We women… it is so much about the hair. We color it, crimp it, curl it, straighten, blow it out, scrunch it up, cut it, grow it, wear it in pony tails, pigtails, and buns. We play with our hair when nervous, worry its thinning, count the grays, gripe at humidity, grouse about hard water, soft water, no water and all that it does to our hair.

Even me, who is a wash and wear kind of gal owns product. I have a shampoo for when I swim, to treat it against the chlorine, and another shampoo for daily use. On my vanity I have cheap hairspray, an iron, a blowdryer, mousse, gel, stuff to keep it from frizzing, junk to help it curl and some goo to keep it from drying out if I blow dry and iron. Oh and I have some funky spray gel that helps give it ‘lift’ at the roots.

And I’m wash and wear. I probably use any of these once a month.

And Joanie’s only concern is sunburn… hence the hats and scarves, or she’d go smooth all the time.

I admire that.

I saw her today in school. She is in full remission; her clothes are hanging off of her as she’s very lean now. She doesn’t look too thin… just lean. The bloating from the drugs is gone… she is probably three sizes different from what she was in April.

Today I heard the stories of how some of the drugs made her near insane. Of how tired she is, perhaps permanently. There is no whining, although she is entitled,… it is with laughter and very matter of fact.

I said to her this morning when I first saw her in the parking lot, as I gave her a big hug, ‘Hey! I want a picture of us for my LLS site.’

She grabbed my wrist and looked at the bracelet I wear constantly now… it bears her name. She laughed.

We walked inside the school and talked. As it was time for me to go to work she said, “Can we wait until my hair grows back in?” referring to my picture request.

“Absolutely,” I replied, laughing.

I picked up my stuff and she touched my bracelet again and said, “Bou, if I had more energy, I’d do this with you…”

My arms full, I said, “Joanie, you’ve done your part. Let me do mine. You beat it… let me run.”

She hugged me again and I left for work with a lump in my throat.

She’s my Team in Training Personal Hero.

Joanie H., I wear her name on my LLS bracelet, night and day. I look down when I’m training and know… that no matter what I do, it will never be as tough as what she’s done.

There is just not a comparison.

And a picture to follow… when her hair grows back. It appears we need just six more weeks… and it should be just ‘short’ as opposed to duck downy soft.

And thank you again... for all who have been able to donate, through that little Team in Training button on my sidebar, and for all the thoughts! Good Lord... it makes my eyes well! I'm writing notes and getting my ducks in a row and... Good Lord... I've never sent a letter to England, this will be my first!!

Posted by Boudicca at August 27, 2008 08:28 PM | TrackBack

.... of all of the posts that you have written, this is quite possibly my favorite......

.... my Family will be donating tomorrow..... Joanie should be very, very proud to have such a friend as you in her pocket........ you are equally as amazing as your friend........

..... good luck with your run.... and the best of luck to your friend!.....

Posted by: Eric at August 27, 2008 09:05 PM

Thank you, Eric. Joanie is a special person. I hope that we can capture on camera the essence of her personality. I think one would be hard pressed to find a better person than she... she is just a great, warm, and wonderful person.

And I still get kind of choked when I remember her telling me she wishes she could do this with me. She is so... selfless.

Posted by: Bou at August 27, 2008 09:40 PM

I concur fully with what Eric fact I like so much what you've said about Joanie H., I'd happily sport a bracelet with her name on it, too.

And if you can, when you run, please give a brief moment's thought to my Cousin Steve, who died of lymphoma way, way too young.

He was a great guy, an awesome musician, and he used to pull nickels out of my ears when I was a kid. I fell for it every time.

Posted by: Erica at August 27, 2008 10:36 PM

Bou, thanks for taking the time to share this with us. Your friend sounds like a wonderful woman and I have been encouraged by hearing about her.

Posted by: Rachel at August 28, 2008 09:20 AM

Bou, thanks for giving me a face, and a brief glimpse into J's life. I remember feeling less of myself when I started losing hair as the result of an operation. Your post makes me pause once again and reevaluate. Keep on running !

Posted by: Kelsey at August 28, 2008 10:14 AM

Erica, Kelsey, and Rachel- Thank you. She is such a great woman. I can't wait for a picture. Her hair is in that patchy stage... its white and fine... and what is there is about a 1/2 inch to a full inch. It is very thin and probably will not come back very thick. I have to ask myself how many times can you lose your hair to chemo and have it all come back?

But it is still coming in straight, unlike my friend Dee's who is on her 3rd remission from breast cancer. Round two brought her back with kinky curly hair! Round three... straightened back out.

So I was half wondering what Joanie's hair would come back like. She still wears a ball cap. Like I said, her hair is patchy.

But she is... my biggest supporter in this. How funny is that? She is just over the top enthusiastic. It blows me away...

AND!, she is a radiology nurse, so she's the first person they have talk to people when they are diagnosed. She continues to give back.

Posted by: Bou at August 28, 2008 11:55 AM

I'm trying to think of something to say and wiping the tears. Joanie is worth more than we could ever donate to help her cause. I do hope they can continue to improve the treatments and that she can go on to live a long lovely life.

Posted by: Teresa at August 28, 2008 04:17 PM