Journal entry by Jeanne Gomoll

The archivist from University of Oregon picked up Vonda’s papers last week. (This is where Ursula's papers now reside.)

Vonda's appetite is waning and she has adopted the rule that a tiny appetite is not to be wasted on anything that is not delicious. Raspberries, apparently, fall into this category.  Her strength is waning and she has some difficulty walking. But please note, Vonda very much enjoys long hugs. When you visit, please give her a hug for me.

Journal entry by Jeanne Gomoll

Vonda is feeling pain infrequently but is receiving pain killer medication when she does. She currently seems to need only about 1/10th the amount she has been prescribed. She is sleeping much of the time; she gets more tired and needs more sleep each day. But when she is awake, she is alert and chats with visitors.
Thursday, Vonda’s posse sprung into action around some paperwork issues that needed to be dealt with immediately. Jane Hawkins says that she only has to send out a single message to “Vonda’s posse," and several people immediately respond. Eileen Gunn observes: “ Vonda’s logistics could mount an invasion of Russia.” So it is good to know that Vonda is being well cared for.

Journal entry by Jeanne Gomoll

A hospice nurse is visiting regularly to check on Vonda and renew meds. Hospice delivered a hospital bed Monday and she moved into it Wednesday morning. Vonda’s Seattle Posse, as they call themselves, have signed up for shifts so that there is always an awake person around Vonda. The goal is comfort for her, which currently involves things like heating up her hot pad or applying CBD ointment to her back or giving her some painkiller. 
Vonda is most often sleeping, not taking pain meds much, eating maybe a couple hundred calories a day. She seems mostly comfortable.

Journal entry by Jeanne Gomoll

This message comes from Jeanne Gomoll. I’m writing because Jane is running out of spoons and I’m helping out by writing some journal updates.
We want you to know that Vonda’s condition is deteriorating and we may lose her sooner than we previously thought. She is sleeping 18 or more hours a day and did not really engage with anything over the weekend.

Journal entry by Jane Hawkins

My apologies for the delay in updates. Vonda wanted some time to adjust in semi-privacy to news from the past week.

Vonda has been told she has somewhere between two weeks and two months. She's doing well enough right now that she will probably last longer than the short end of this estimate but we aren't seeing much cause for hope she might exceed the long end. 

She has signed up with hospice. The people who have come out this past week all seem smart and kind, and Vonda is pleased with them.

Vonda is, on the whole, fairly comfortable. She gets some pain before her scheduled paracentesis sessions, but she says it isn't bad and goes away as soon as she gets the procedure. She's weak, moves slowly, and sleeps a lot. However, she's alert and engaged when she is awake, and has been enjoying visits from various people. She doesn't eat much, but is still enjoying food and has no nausea issues.

Emotionally, I find her to be in astonishingly good shape. She's still grieving the loss of Ursula and her sister, Carolyn, but she says she's not especially upset about her own situation. She is focused on getting some things down, many of which are fun for her. This stuff could hit harder later but for now she seems calm and accepting.

Vonda is pleased with progress on her book. She said yesterday that while she will continue to work on it, she wouldn't be embarrassed to see it published as is. I am SO SO happy for her!

In closing, I got a little behind on arranging visits this past week and my apologies to some folks who waited too long to hear back.  If you want to visit, please email both me ( and Vonda ( so we can work together on setting up a good time.

Journal entry by Jane Hawkins

Yesterday afternoon Vonda met with her oncologist. This morning she had an appointment with her gastroenterologistgastroenterologist. The current upshot is on the pessimistic side. However, tomorrow she will get an outpatient procedure that could improve her outlook.

I'm going to give details but I want to stop a moment and say this: When you see words like "treatment" please don't let it spark long term hopes for Vonda. She's got stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It has infested other organs. (But NOT her brain! Clean MRI on Monday!) Even if treatment is possible, our very best reasonable hope is still less than a year.

Vonda's oncologist described three levels of chemotherapy of varying intensity. Don't ask me chemical names -- will have that later but not right now. The most intense regime might give her a year but it sometimes not well tolerated. One step down is usually easier on a person and might mean about six months. The mildest doesn't usually do much for life span but can increase comfort.

Problem is, Vonda's liver function right now is poor. So poor that chemo might take her faster than the cancer.

Vonda's gasgastroenterologist said today that replacement of a stent installed several weeks ago could improve liver function. He will do that replacement Thursday morning, tomorrow. The stent is intended to help fluids from the gall bladder get out to the bowels, and he thinks the current one could be clogged.

If this works and her liver numbers get better, I think she will try the medium-level chemo. We might know by Friday.

An aside: All her docs know she has a book she wants to finish. Even the doc she hadn't seen before!

Journal entry by Jane Hawkins

Vonda had several visitors over the weekend and seems pleased with progress on her book, but she remains very very low energy and the problem with dizziness may be getting worse. On Monday she actually passed out when she stood after sitting for a while. She didn't fall -- we were in Radiology for yet another test and one tech grabbed while another ran for a wheel chair.

Tuesday and Wednesday she has important appointments with her doctors that will probably give her more information about how all this is likely to progress.

Journal entry by Jane Hawkins

No real change for Vonda right now. She's very tired and sleeps a lot, but is mostly not in pain and has been making good progress on her book. She got a first draft completed just a few weeks ago and we all very very much hope she has time to redraft it to where she wants it to be.

Next week will be big -- appointments with oncology and gastroenterology that will tell us a lot about what happens in the next couple weeks.

Journal entry by Jane Hawkins

I'm Vonda's neighbor, Jane Hawkins. I'll be trying to organize people who want to assist Vonda, or who just want to visit a while. My contact information: 206-634-3828 For now, Vonda doesn't need a lot of help -- rides to various medical encounters, meals, laundry, and so on. If you want to assist, please shoot me an email describing what might work for you. If you want to visit, I hope you'll consider going through me to get it scheduled. Poor lady hasn't a lot of energy.
Vonda N.’s Story

Site created on February 17, 2019

Vonda was a treasure  as a writer and as a friend, as a citizen and a sister, as a human who walked this earth and made it a better place. We will not see her like again.

Her memorial will be held Sunday afternoon on June 9 at The Mountaineers Goodman Auditorium at 7700 Sand Point Way NE in Seattle, Washington. Doors will open at 1:45. At 2pm the sushi will arrive. Vonda loved sushi and we will have lots of it, made by a sushi chef whose first English book was Vonda's The Voyage Home. At 3 we will start gathering for a toast and some stories about her. Please think about sharing a story of when you met her or the book that most moved you or some time when she said or did something that seemed especially Vonda to you.

Several wonderful obituaries have been published, including Vonda's official obit by Tom Whitmore, which you can find in the 4/4/19 Journal entry, here on CaringBridge. We are all pleased to see Vonda's accomplishments lauded by the New York Times, The Guardian, Geekwire and File 770.