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The Final Column

By Staff | Jan 13, 2010

I have tried on almost a daily basis to write this column without much success. But today I decided it was time to “put on my big girl panties and deal with it.” This was a phrase that Aunt Judy and I often exchanged. It is with great pride and a very heavy heart that I have the honor of writing this final column. I am not a writer, but here goes. . .

As I spent the weeks with Aunt Judy a Ohio State University James Hospital, she was delighted daily as I took in to her the batch of cards she had received. She was uplifted daily from the many, many cards that came to her. I thank you all from the bottom of my breaking heart.

I can tell you she personally took on the leukemia with a vengeance. She was going to beat it and she told everyone just that-and I mean everyone, at every opportunity she had!

She had always said, “I will never take chemo after watching (her son) Craig struggle through so many rounds of chemo-never!” When the diagnosis of acute leukemia was given to her and the treatment plan (which was intensive chemo 24/7 for a week) was explained to her I asked, “What if she chooses not to take the treatment?” The doctor softly stated to her, “Judy, you will not live any longer than six months without treatment.” After pondering his words for a moment she said, “Okay then. Where do I sign up for this damn chemo?” That was the beginning of her brave and courageous battle against this diagnosis.

She daily entertained the physicians and staff at the James Cancer Hospital. By the way, we renamed it “The James Hilton.”

So many told me what a joy it was to have her there. They were not accustomed to having someone who initially felt so well. We counted the days until chemo would be completed and she finished her last bag on Nov. 27, 2009, at 5 p.m. I happened to be in New Martinsville at that time as her husband, Buzz, had been transported to Ruby Hospital earlier in the week. But I can tell you there was dancing in her room as they took that last bag down. She had decided to take three days of a research trial drug that Dr. Devine (what a name, and what a guy!) is proving to increase the response to the chemo.

She had many more good days than bad. Her sickness came and went quickly, thank God! But she faced each and every moment with a smile and reassured me that she was going to beat this. Imagine that-her reassuring me. It should have been the other way around.

She was taken to ICU in the early morning hours of Dec. 2. The doctor called at 2:29 a.m. and said there was a change in her status and that I should come quickly to the hospital. Her very dear friend, Bob Greenwood, who had arrived from Kansas earlier in the week, and I were at the hospital at 3:10 a.m.

When I first saw her in ICU, she was unable to speak because of the breathing tube, but she looked up at me with a puzzled look on her face.

I told her she was in a different part of the “James Hilton” and they were taking very good care of her; she needed to relax and let them do just that. She seemed to understand what I had said and closed her eyes.

She did not rally much after that. The doctor told me at about 9:30 p.m. that she was “losing ground quickly.” I knew exactly what this meant.

So quietly and quickly, with me by her side and holding her hand, the nurses began removing the equipment from her. I spoke to her constantly and comforted her. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She peacefully took her last breath at 10:30 p.m. Many hearts were broken at that moment. I believe she was welcomed into Heaven by her son, Craig.

She will be remembered for many things and I ask each of you to remember her sense of humor, smile, straight forward honesty, kind heart, dedication to the Democratic Party, the love of her church and church family, and her true enjoyment of writing this column.

RIP my dear Aunt Judy until we meet again.