Jan Kolodny has been a supporter of Fran’s Place for over 10 years, and has been a caregiver to a daughter and a husband with cancer. She is also the author of Leslie’s Book. This is Jan’s story:
“Every day I like to remind myself to appreciate that random moments make the most precious memories of my life. One such time was when I was standing in the cosmetics aisle at a grocery store, and my 24-year-old daughter, Leslie, said to me, “Hey Mom, want to see me run?” She took off running down the long, deserted aisle as fast as she could. It wasn’t at a record-breaking pace, but the glory in it was that she hadn’t been able to walk, much less run, since she was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome, three years prior.
“Overcoming Guillian-Barre was one of many battles won by my daughter. Leslie was 16 when she was first diagnosed with melanoma. Her cancer journey started with removal of a tumor on her back, tests for lymph node involvement, blood tests, and doctor’s appointments. At age 20, her remission ceased. Throughout her next seven years, Leslie fought valiantly during her against all odds war with stage IV cancer.
“Leslie and I agreed she needed to write a book about her experiences. “Love & Hugs, Leslie” is the story of my spirited daughter’s life as she braved adversity with love, humor, and adventure. It’s a story of love between my daughter and myself, and it’s a story of how she lived– without letting anything stop her, even if it was another brain tumor.
“I always had the notion to write a book during my lifetime, but never expected to write about being a caregiver to my daughter. And actually, I call it Leslie’s book, as it was her promise to me to write it in the first place. The on-going battle with cancer didn’t allow her to continue writing and two months before she passed, she asked me to help finish the book. With love and determination, I was able to keep my promise. Leslie was 27 when she wrote her final pages and 10 years later, I resolutely completed writing mine.
“Love is a beautiful language expressed in words, music and art, or physically expressed with one’s face, eyes, hands, and body. Often, during Leslie’s tenure of survivorship, we could only speak with our eyes, and that was enough. Now I receive love through text messages of hearts from one of Leslie’s friends’ 4-year-old daughter, who I affectionately consider a granddaughter. This child was given Leslie for her middle name. Love is everywhere and all one needs do is look around to see and feel it. Since Covid-19 appeared on the scene, we have been challenged to not express ourselves with the same affection and demonstrative actions as we once did. We can however, be steadfast in our kindness to others, which is love in action. I’ve always believed love is the answer, and although it doesn’t cure cancer, love can relieve some of the anxiety that comes with it. When we are focused on love, it’s hard to feel anything else.
“One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received was, “Keep your head where your feet are.” A friend told me this and now I pass it on to you, the reader. Not only in the present changing world from the effects of Covid-19, but since the moment my daughter was diagnosed with melanoma, I’ve tried to live by the words of my friend and stay present and not miss anything, thus creating precious memories to later reflect on. There are many quotes and clichés that remind us to live in the moment, or, take life one minute at a time. I do believe that is the best way for me to live my life, but putting it into practice every day and every moment is more than challenging. Therefore, I strive to focus on loved ones and experiences that bring me joy and help keep me present.
“It’s with 12 years behind me since the passing of my daughter and my husband just 10 weeks later from pancreatic cancer. Some people would like to know their future but I’d rather take life as it comes, appreciating experiences as they unfold one moment at a time.”
About Jan Kolodny:
An avid supporter of folks living life in the presence of cancer, Jan has served as a board member and volunteer for cancer organizations. She has also championed numerous cancer survivors and generously shared her story of many years as mother of one cancer survivor and wife of another. Jan is a passionate golfer and world traveler.