In triumph, memory and honor

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A Shelby woman will walk in the Kentucky Oaks Survivor’s Parade to celebrate survivors and to remember and honor friends she’s lost.

By Lisa King

A Shelbyville woman is headed back for her third walk in the Kentucky Oaks Survivor’s Parade Friday, but the experience will be bittersweet.

Ellen Jacobs, herself a breast cancer survivor, today will walk with close friend Georgianna Dotson of Jefferson County, who is also recovering not only from breast cancer but also from the loss of her husband.

But as Jacobs revels in the successful battle that she and Dotson won, she will also be thinking of two dear friends she walked in previous Survivor’s Parades – friends that have succumbed to the terrible ravages of cancer.

“It’s going to be an emotional walk this year because of Peggy not being there and because of Jana, who was with me last year [not being there], so it’s definitely going to be emotional,” she said.

Jacobs lost both of her friends at practically the same time.

Peggy Tschauner of Shelbyville, a personal trainer and former co-owner of Shelby Fit for Life, who was the co-chair of the Relay for Life in 2013, died Feb. 25 at age 54 of ovarian cancer. Jana Kixmiller Rankin, of Jeffersonville, Ind., also died in February, of breast cancer. Both had been diagnosed with cancer in 2010, the year before Jacobs.

Tschauner and Jacobs had been invited to walk in the 2012 Oaks Parade.

“I took my sister, Karen and Peggy took her daughter [Danica],” she said.

But the event was rained out so Jacobs and Tschauner, along with the other 136 cancer survivors, were invited back in 2013.

This year, Jacobs said, she did not participate in the online voting process because she wanted to give someone else who has not had the opportunity to walk in the parade a chance. So she was pleasantly surprised to be able to walk as Dotson’s guest, she said.


Walking in support

“George had asked a mutual friend of ours, who is also a survivor who had not walked yet, but she couldn’t go, so she wanted me to come with her, and I said sure,” she said.

But even though Jacobs has bought a new pair of pink rain boots to wear to the event, anticipating – what else – rain, she has had very little chance to put together an outfit because she has been enduring a crisis with a terminally ill family member.

“My cousin has been in hospice for about six weeks and I’ve been back and forth to New York, staying for a week or two each time, and just want to be with her when she passes,” she said in a quiet voice with an undercurrent of sadness permeating her tone.

Since her cousin, who is suffering from appendix cancer, went home, Jacobs and other family members have been spending time with her and taking care of her until the end comes, she said.

But she said she is especially glad that she will be able to be there for Dotson this year.

Dotson said that the chance to be an inspiration to other cancer survivors is an awesome experience that she is looking forward to.

“Oh, my gosh, I can’t even tell you how huge it is to me to be able to do this,” she said. “That’s because after my mastectomy, I was feeling so ill with the chemo and everything, and I couldn’t even imagine what it would feel like to feel good again. And now, when we are out there Friday, I hope that if there is anybody watching us that is feeling like I did then, that they will say, ‘Wow, I am going to be like one of them someday.”

The fight back to health was especially tough on Dotson, because she had to claw her way back without the love of her life at her side – her husband, Jeff, had died in 2009, the year before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dotson said that’s one more reason she wants to walk in the Oaks parade, because she said she knows that her precious husband will be proud of her for fighting the hard fight, and he will be smiling down on her on Friday.

“I just know it,” she said, fighting back tears, her voice still full of love for him.

But with good friends like Jacobs by her side, she can’t lose, she said.

“It’s going to be just great, I’m am so excited.”