They met as teens and spent the next three decades creating a life together.
Children, grandchildren – good times. But in 2013 without any warning, Frank Jenkins’ wife, Tracy, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She underwent 40 chemotherapy sessions and other treatments. Sadly, as ovarian cancer all too often is, the diagnosis came too late. Just before spring 2017, Tracy passed away.
Tracy received care at both the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary and the Jack Ady Cancer Centre in Lethbridge where she and her loved ones felt very much at home and surrounded by familiar faces. Her family, wanting to honour Tracy as well as the incredible care she received at the Jack Ady, sold cowboy rags made by Tracy’s daughter, Dana, to raise funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of the Jack Ady Cancer Centre. The funds went towards helping enhance care at the Jack Ady, which serves so many Albertans living in Lethbridge and many surrounding communities – so they, too, can get care closer to home.
“For our family, it was so much, much more convenient. For someone who lives in Milk River of Pincher Creek, it’s so much easier for them and takes the pressure off travelling to the bigger centres,” Frank says.
After she passed away, many friends and neighbours, eager to support the family, joined the fundraising efforts spearheaded by Tracy’s family. “You feel helpless. We tried everything to save her life and we couldn’t,” Frank says, still grateful for the community support. “She was well-loved and they were losing a friend and couldn’t do anything about it. People stood behind us, especially purchasing the rags. And their little contribution became a big contribution – maybe we can do something to make someone else’s life a little easier.”
Tracy’s family matched donations raised and wrote a cheque totalling $12,000 earmarked for the centre where she received such excellent care. “She was well-loved and people stood behind us,” says Frank who wears his teal-coloured cowboy rag all the time in the winter. “We live in a small town but it’s a big community. (The rags) got snapped up. It feels really good. In rural (communities) there is the camaraderie. You are never alone.”
Frank says the strength he now relies on is a gift his wife left him. “Our lives go on,” he says.
“I’ve got two granddaughters now – she was able to meet one of them. That’s what keeps us going. Family and the ranching. My wife taught me, you just keep going. She told me, ‘Make sure you don’t fly apart and let what we’ve done over 30 years of married life fall apart. It’s not easy and every day you can crash very easily. But you look at the kids and the grandkids and it is just your job to make sure you keep going.”
He knows their three children – Dana, Colby and Ryley – struggle, too. “I do my best but I’m not their mom,” he says. “She was a really compassionate, a really good gal.”
“To lose her was difficult. I miss her every day. You have to push on.”
Frank recently learned he is expecting a third grandchild and their middle child, Colby, was engaged at Christmas.
In 2017/2018, 2,247 patients visited the Jack Ady Cancer Centre. The total number of visits by those patients to the centre in Lethbridge reached more than 22,000. The regional centre sees about 20 to 35 patients a day in its day-care unit for various cancer treatments and two radiation oncologists treat about 600 patients annually.
Tanya Beesley, Manager Systemic Therapy and Ambulatory Care, says the team at Jack Ady is passionate about what they do and that commitment pays off. “That’s what’s kept me here – the environment, the team and our ability to work together to make the patient experience the best it can be,” she says. “We get a lot of patient appreciation. The thing I hear a lot is that they feel like we really care about their journey and it’s not just a job to us. That’s the ultimate compliment.”
“It’s not just the nurses. It’s not just the therapists, it’s not just the managers and the doctors. It’s the booking clerks … and all the team. You know, it takes a village to get a patient through cancer treatment and we have a pretty good village here,” says Trevor Campbell, Manager, Radiation Therapy at Jack Ady Cancer Centre.
You can make a difference for the cancer patients and their families at the Jack Ady Cancer Centre in Lethbridge.