Purple Hope is about your personal experiences involving pancreatic cancer. Please welcome Jon Olson. Jon hails from Nova Scotia and would like to share his story – in his own words – with you all:
Pancreatic Cancer, like every cancer, is a horrible and vicious disease. Anyone who has had family members fight valiantly against this predator, or fought themselves, knows that it is something that can take on many different faces and descriptions.
To me, pancreatic cancer is a thief.
Marylyn Key Olson, my grandmother who we all called Grammie, was an amazing and fantastic woman. She was born on February 15th, 1925. Like all of my relatives, I didn’t get to see my grandparents that often since they lived in the United States while I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada. That being said, there were many visits that left lasting impressions on me growing up. We would always get excited knowing that she was making the drive from Portage, Indiana to Chicago and then hop on a plane to Halifax, Nova Scotia. When we were younger, it would only be a matter of minutes after leaving the airport that we would ask ‘Did you bring us any surprises’. Of course, our parents would always scold us but Grammie would always laugh and say that she did but would make us wait the entire 50 minute drive back home before she would even think about giving them to us.
She always supported us grandkids in whatever we were doing at the time. In my years at elementary school, I played whip-pitch softball in the summers. Grammie came to a few of my games whenever she was visiting but there was one game in particular that always stood out. I was playing catcher and I could hear her cheering behind the backstop every pitch. I don’t even know if she liked softball or baseball, but she always came regardless to support me.
As sweet as she was, I found out during one visit that she wasn’t one to be trifled with either. I was in Grade 7 and it was after school. I was heading out to hang out with a friend and I told Grammie that I would be back around 5pm. It turned out that my definition and her definition of ‘around’ were vastly different. I arrived back home around 5:40pm and as soon as I stepped into the basement, she was waiting. She chewed me out and made it known that ‘around 5’ meant ‘at 5’. My parents still weren’t home from work and aside from being scared of her, I was also scared that she would tell them and I would receive a second verbal barrage.
Like all great grandmothers, she never told.
The last time I saw Grammie was in the summer of 2003. She was up visiting us with my Aunt Linda and Uncle Doug. It was an emotional visit as she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer not too long before hand. She had made the trip up to say her goodbyes to me and my siblings.
When they were leaving, I gave Grammie a big hug and said, “I love you, Grammie.” They were the last words I ever said to her.
What really hit me at that time was watching my dad, Uncle Doug, Aunt Linda, and Grammie backing out of the driveway. Dad had to stop the car twice because he was crying along with everyone else in the car. Now that I’m a father myself, I could not imagine what it must’ve felt like to pull away from the house knowing that my parents would never see my children again.
My oldest brother, Aaron, got married in 2004 but Grammie was too sick to attend.
After a courageous battle, Grammie passed away on Wednesday, June 16th, 2004.
My niece Astrid was born in November of 2011. I married my wife on September 22nd, 2012 and our daughter Emilia was born December 6th, 2013.
Grammie never got the chance to meet those new additions to our family.
Arthur Hilmer Olson, my grandfather, was born May 17th, 1927. He served during the Second World War in the United States Navy on the U.S.S. Bache. Afterwards, he founded and was the owner of the Olson Funeral Home in Portage, Indiana. In 1968 he became the first mayor of Portage, a feat that my Uncle Doug would later achieve in 2000.
I never got the chance to meet him.
He passed away on October 3rd, 1981, two years before I was born.
Pancreatic cancer robbed my family.
It robbed me from meeting the man who helped shape my father into the man he became. It robbed my grandfather of the opportunity to meet the rest of his grandchildren, as only my brother Aaron and cousin David were born when he was alive. It robbed Grammie of her husband and robbed my father of both of his parents.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss Grammie and wish that I had been able to meet my grandfather.
Let’s keep raising the awareness of this vicious disease and sharing our experiences so that hopefully someday soon no more families will be robbed at its expense.
~ Jon Olsen