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Tom’s Story

With a cancer-free declaration from Doc Kahl, we are exploring life after cancer and counting the many miracles in our lives.

We are filled with gratitude. Tom was declared cancer-free from brain cancer just days after Ellen started an awesome job as sr. vice president of corporate communication at WPS. Tom is still disabled by the headaches and fixing golf clubs in the basement until he can get back to the courses. Kait is a nanny after teaching at La Petite Academy in Sun Prairie, and Maura works as a data analyst in Chicago.

2012 was an action packed year. We even got to travel a bit. We are very blessed. 

We are very proud of everyone for surviving.

The journal is searchable using your control F function. We hope this website is useful for family and friends. Fellow cancer patients can search for tips on hospitalizations, magic mouth wash, Vanicream, nausea and other words to get tips.

The content on this site is copyrighted by Ellen Foley.

Latest Journal Update

Mother's Day: Foley Fun Quotient

As a Mother's Day gift to myself, I took a few days off from work with the thought that I would refocus on Tom and let my very engaging and challenging job drift away for a few hours. The time gave Tom and me the chance for introspective talks about how grateful we are that our lives have been so full, and yet how perplexed we are that the future eludes us.

Tom, who even before cancer, could distill complicated issues to one sentence, said, “I just want to have some fun.”

What the hell does that mean?

Earning more money so Tom can have fun? Retrenching the new career so Tom can have more fun? Something in between? Selling our house and possessions so Tom can have more fun?

In Tom’s mind, Tom wants Ellen to have more fun and that will make Tom’s life more fun. How sweet is that. And how confounding.

We stared death in the face several times and promised ourselves that if he lived, we would have fun. What does this look like in post-recession America for people 60-years-old who aren't quite psychologically or financially prepared for retirement?

Here’s one answer: Our daughters are always asking me what I want from them for my birthday or Mother's Day, and I always say the same thing: “I want to spend some time with you, and I want you to put some awesome music on my (Choose one:  Ipod, smartphone, Nano).” (I've yet to get any music on my devices.)  

Tom had another answer for the Ellen fun quotient. He insisted we sell our house this Spring as a way to give me permission to retire. I have no plans to retire. Working 50 hours a week is fun for me. And we need to stash cash for the next few years so we are not eating cat food at age 72. (Kaitlin lightened the mood by assuring me that she would make sure we got the “good” cat food. )

I am not ready to sell our house. Check that. I can’t imagine cleaning up all the years of mental and physical debris that we store in our house. I can barely re-read the Caringbridge journal entries without falling apart. My job is consuming right now, and for the first time in perhaps my entire life, I just didn't think I could survive the dual job of cleaning out the house, giving away all my stuff and working --- all at the same time.

One would think that people who have thrived during these past six years would have the confidence that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?


After two months of arguing, crying, eating too little, too much, Tom and I finally agreed that now was not the time to unravel my sanity. That doesn’t mean it’s over. It means the inevitable is delayed. I need to get on the program, as Tom would have said 30 years ago. I am still preparing to sell the house, filling the basement with boxes of books to be ferried to Goodwill and boxes of three generations of Foley photos to be taken to a storage place. I've hired some people to help me.

This journal has been about crisis, balance and positive thinking in the face of one of the most unfathomable challenges: brain cancer. I wish it was over. I wish it never happened. But It did. We need to adjust Ellen’s plan to save the world for Obamacare and never retire.  We need to make sure Tom has some fun.  

It is a beautiful 70-degree Wisconsin Spring day outside my window. After a long, harsh winter, the birds are back, chirping their little hearts out. Our magnolia tree is popping bright pink blossoms against our serene green siding. Strollers, runners and leisurely dogwalkers are moving the river of life past our door.

Tom just came down to ask if I wanted to take a walk before daughter came over for brunch and the other daughter called. I think that would be fun.

Happy Mother's Day!


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1 Comment

Ralph Kamps
By Ralph
Know that feeling Ellen....sometimes we get in a rut...and even enjoy the rut because...well that rut is what we grooved for ourselves and it is okay. And when that rut is disrupted we try to get back into it and that may be impossible....so we carve out a new one with what is in our has left our world. That is where I am right now.