August 8, 2017 | By Jon Fehrenbach
On April 26, 2011, my second-oldest sibling and only sister, my dear Jeanne, celebrated her 60th birthday — hard to believe for her three little brothers. Her husband Greg's birthday present was an amazing vacation charter trip. Their trip took them from Sydney to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Manaus (on the Amazon River), Havana, the Panama Canal, Machu Picchu in Peru and Easter Island before returning to Sydney. It was an amazing trip, the trip of a lifetime, as Greg put it.
When they returned to Sydney in late May, Jeanne was having some difficulty with taking a deep breath so she went to see her doctor — and a rare form of lung cancer was discovered.
Jeanne went through chemo all summer and into the early fall, always keeping an eye on the calendar. She was determined to be fit to travel for her annual Christmas trip back to Milwaukee.
She and Greg indeed made it back to Milwaukee in early December, with Jeanne having planned an over-zealous week or so of holiday activities with her family.
But during the flight, something — something unknown, really — happened physiologically. Painful complications began to manifest themselves within hours after arriving in Milwaukee on Thursday.
‘Still reeling’ from an unexpected loss
Greg took Jeanne into the ER Friday night. She was discharged after a few hours, and on Saturday night her pain was so significant that she was checked back into the hospital. Over the next several days, every attempt to control her pain failed, and her condition deteriorated rapidly.
I arrived from Seattle on Thursday morning. From her bed, she said that she was waiting for me. Her whole family, numerous cousins, nieces and nephews and friends were at her bedside throughout that day. At about 6:00 PM on December 8, 2011, Jeanne died with Greg and one of her brothers at her side.
In many ways we are still reeling from her loss, which manifested itself only weeks after her sixtieth birthday and swept her away in less than seven months. Jeanne was our beautiful, stalwart leader, the calm steering hand, the female influence that meant a lot to us boys. We do miss her terribly.
Jeanne and Donald
Two of the most important and dear people in my life have been taken in a similarly untimely and tragic way: On April 10, 1998, my oldest brother Donald, and Jeanne's closest sibling and friend, succumbed to a rare lung cancer that ravaged his HIV/AIDS-weakened body.