In July 2009, Randy Moore, longtime anchor for WTVW Fox 7’s weeknight newscasts, lost his wife, Ann, to pancreatic cancer. The public figure was open and honest about the family’s two-year fight against a disease that will claim the lives of an estimated 36,800 Americans this year. From his hardship, Moore connected with Gilda’s Club, a national cancer support network, and contributes to efforts to establish a local chapter of the organization. The mission, as Moore says, is to help “people living with cancer and their loved ones from diagnosis, throughout treatment, and beyond — the whole family, the whole time.” A little more than a year after his wife’s death, Moore shares the tales of a community bonded together to raise funds for Gilda’s Club Evansville, a nonresidential, homelike clubhouse providing a welcoming environment away from medical facilities.
Cancer has tentacles that stretch out and latch on to those closest to the one with the disease. But thank God, love has tentacles too.
The tentacles of Ann’s cancer sank their hooks into me about four months after the diagnosis came in May 2007. That’s when the surgeon told us that he still wouldn’t be able to cut the tumor out of her pancreas despite five weeks of daily radiation and a course of chemotherapy. Even though we didn’t give voice to it, we knew then that she was doomed just like everyone else this monster attacks. Making matters worse, I thought Ann’s death sentence might kill me too.
That’s the way it is with cancer. Its sticky arms stuck to me and our children and everyone who loved her. The awful impact on those she loved is why Ann decided to bring a Gilda’s Club to Evansville.
Ann died on July 3, 2009, but the people she inspired are working with passion to realize her dream. Yes, love has long arms too.
I first met Ken Ellspermann in the infusion room at Oncology Hematology Associates where he and Ann were undergoing chemotherapy. He is the president of Old National Investments, the brokerage arm of Old National Bank.
Ken was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009. His cancer is slow growing, and at this time, there is no cure. He and his wife, Carrie, have two boys (ages 4 and 5), and Ken has two adult daughters from a previous marriage.
Ken says agreeing to serve on the Gilda’s Club board of directors was an easy decision. Like Ann, he most looks forward to the children’s room at Gilda’s Club called “Noogieland.”
“If I get sicker, I want a place my boys can turn to for support,” Ken says. “There really wasn’t a place like that when my diagnosis hit us right between the eyes.”
Ken’s cancer is in remission right now, and my prayer is that medical science will make the advances that will give him a long life. I expect Ken to be there with me when we celebrate Gilda’s Club Evansville’s 25th anniversary.
Julie Clayton is the director of administration and project management at Regency Properties at Cross Pointe in Evansville. She also lived next door to my parents for eight years. That really was her only connection to Ann, but Julie became an avid reader of Ann’s blog (www.annmoore.org).
“I can’t really explain why,” Julie says, “but I felt compelled to go to her website daily, sometimes numerous times, wanting to know how she was doing, what she was thinking, and how she was dealing with this horrible thing called cancer.”
When the staff at Regency started planning for a community service project in 2009, Julie thought of Ann. That was the genesis of our signature event, the Cross Pointe Gala and Family Fair. The inaugural event raised more than $30,000, and Julie has taken over leadership for the second annual event.
“Before becoming involved with the Gilda’s Club Evansville group, I didn’t truly realize the number of people in our community whose lives are now being touched, or have in the past been touched, by cancer,” she says. “It also helped me to better understand the genuine need to have this safe haven of emotional support right here in our community.”
When Kim Fields found out that her mother, Karen Conger, had pancreatic cancer, she stayed up late researching the disease on the Internet. I did the same thing when Ann was diagnosed, so I can relate when Kim says she found nothing positive. But through mutual acquaintances, she met me, and she admits, I told her one thing that might give others hope: She saw that Gilda’s Club Evansville was in development.
Karen Conger died on Jan. 1 this year at age 58, only three months after her diagnosis. During her short illness, Kim says her mother and the family often felt isolated and helpless. After Karen’s death, they decided to make sure other families didn’t have to go through what they did alone.
“I knew that I had to do something,” Kim says. “I tried so hard to help her fight against cancer and failed. I needed to do something that would make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Kim organized the first annual Miles for Mom 5K. On July 10, 425 runners and walkers helped Kim raise $10,500 for Gilda’s Club Evansville.
These are just three of the people who have been reached by the tentacles of cancer, but responded by reaching back and wrapping their loving arms around me and my fellow “Gildamites.” Ann is smiling.