Column: The bravest person I know

By Gus Bode

I remember that day well. During my last year as an undergraduate student in Carbondale, I received the phone call you never want to get. I honestly can’t remember who called, but I remember the news as clear as day. ‘Andy, your grandma’s sick and they’re prepping her for surgery now. She has cancer.’

What started as ovarian cancer had spread to her colon and had fingered its way through her digestive tract. The surgery my grandma had that day lasted more than 10 hours. The surgeons, who said afterward they were surprised she survived the surgery, cleaned out as much of the cancer as they could, but they weren’t able to get it all. The doctors told us we had about six months to a year before the cancer would run its course.

Clearly, cancer had never been formally introduced to Darlene Fruth.


My grandma lived with cancer for almost 3.5 years. She endured more than 80 rounds of chemotherapy and 15 radiation treatments. The nurses and doctors up in Monroe, Wis., where she went to get her treatments, were amazed at her perseverance and said most people with her type of cancer at that advanced of a stage, simply don’t do what my grandma did: continue to live life and keep fighting.

Unfortunately, every battle has to come to an end, and last week we were all forced to realize our time with Gram was getting short. After going back and forth several times between home and the hospital, it was apparent she was getting close. We brought her home from the hospital, which was where she wanted to be. We made her as comfortable as possible and she had a good day with all of us, during which she was able to talk to all of her children, grandchildren and my grandpa.

Later that night, things took a turn for the worse and the pain became unbearable. Her medication was increased so she wouldn’t feel the pain and my grandma, defiant to the very end, fought on for several more days before finally throwing in the towel in her courageous battle against cancer. She was 71 years old.

We were all fortunate to have more holidays, birthdays and, most importantly, more conversations with her than we were supposed to.. The woman had a heart of gold that simply wouldn’t stop beating. The love the woman had for her family and friends was strong enough to keep her going up until the very end.

If you take anything away from this, remember cancer can affect anyone, at any age. Even college students, who think they are inherently invincible, are susceptible to cancer. Get regular checkups. Early detection can be the biggest difference in your prognosis if, heaven forbid, you were to ever get cancer. It might be an uncomfortable experience, but it is necessary.

If you want to help the American Cancer Society help fight the disease, go to for more information on this year’s event, which will be April 25-26 at Carbondale Community High School. If you know someone affected by cancer, do it for them. It’s a very worthwhile experience.

If you don’t know someone affected by cancer, then do it for my grandma. She is, after all, the bravest person I know.


Fruth is a graduate student in curriculum & instruction.