i always thought i'd see you again

By Louise Sukle
Editor & Publisher
Woman Newspapers

My friend Judy and I clowning around trying to perfect our pinched-lip “Disapproving Mom” look.

My friend Judy and I clowning around trying to perfect our

pinched-lip “Disapproving Mom” look.

The dreaded late-night call came from a family friend asking, “Can you come?”

Breast cancer had succeeded in taking my friend of 35 years from me, her family, her circle of friends, the world. But some people will always be with us and Judy Stokes is one of those people.

Judy lives on in those who knew her because of the kind of person she was. Judy said everything you wished you could say — so clever and quick. She did not suffer fools gladly, but, oh, could she make you laugh. She could have you holding your sides within minutes of entering the room. She had funny catch phrases for every situation, most of which I couldn’t repeat here.

When Judy’s “normal” vanished and was replaced with surgery and treatments, she fought hard and kept her sense of humor. When her hair fell out, she bought a wig. When she lost a third of her body-weight we joked her new diet was working. She didn’t want her circle of family and friends to fuss over her. It actually pissed her off.

When Judy’s cancer spread, everyone was concerned - how much can one person take, after all? One morning, after helping her into the hospital shower, she re-emerged, looking at her thinning hair and sagging skin with that look on her face - a look that I, and her circle of friends and family, had seen hundreds of times before. It was my favorite look. It was Judy’s look that said, “ohfergawdsake!”

And her circle of friends was extensive; in number and range of ages. At the visitation, so many were in attendance that those who couldn’t find chairs lined the walls. It was a full house - her childhood friends, her daughters’ friends, neighbors, family, former co-workers - Judy would have loved that. She would roll her eyes at my sentimentality so I’ll glance over the part where we went in and out of crying jags over the unbearable loss.
Throughout her illness, Judy never wore the victim’s hat. She hated that and everything it implied. She wore no pink ribbons. 

No wristbands. Support groups were not her thing. Ironically, in the end, by choosing NOT to focus on the cancer, she became a role model for living with breast cancer.

I know I’m not alone in the fact that I’ve lost loved ones to breast cancer. My mother died at the age of 58, a victim of this horrible disease, and getting over her death has taken most of my adult life. If there are lessons to be learned it’s simply this: life waits for no one, and it goes on.

Gilda Radner said, “If it wasn’t for the side effects, everyone would want cancer,” because it is that thing that jilts you alive and makes you look at life from a new perspective. You rise above all the trivial nonsense that fills our daily lives and you become aware of what is truly important.

Miss ya Jude.