In Sickness and in Health: A Couple's Story of Lung Cancer

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Jodi Lou and Ray Rickert
Ray Rickert, pictured left with his wife Jodi, reflects on the strength and courage his wife embodied during her battle with lung cancer.
We did not know our fairy tale romance would end as quickly as it began.

Jodi and I had met later in life, both in our early 30’s and we were ready…ready to love one another, ready to start a family and ready to spend the rest of our lives together.

This was a short poem that I wrote for our engagement announcement:

He asked her when they were "On Top of the World"...
He knew he had met "The Girl"...
It'll be two years to the day that they first met...
So hang it somewhere so, you don't forget...

I remember vividly the day when it all changed for us – the day Jodi was diagnosed with lung cancer. It hit us like a ton of bricks as we sat there stunned in the doctor's office.

"What do you mean I have lung cancer? I never smoked! I'm young healthy, and have an eight- month-old baby." My wife and I were in utter shock and disbelief.

On February 7, 2006 we officially hopped on the "cancer coaster." That is exactly what Jodi and I dubbed it, because life became a mix of extreme ups, downs, twists and turns that kept throwing us off course. We were both thrill-seekers but not of this kind.

Of course, the very first thing we wanted to do is try and get a handle on this thing called "lung cancer," so off we went to the internet searching for information. Boy, did that throw us for a loop!
The Rickert Family at the Beach

The Rickert family at the beach

We soon found out that we were up against a monster. Lung cancer has the statistics to scare the hope out of you, if you let it. That's when you find out what you're made of. Jodi vowed to do whatever it took to live and see our little daughter Sophie grow-up.

Cancer changed our perspective on life and made us appreciate it at a deeper level than we ever thought possible. If I could give couples going through the cancer experience, any free words of wisdom – it would be TALK, TALK, TALK.

Jodi felt sorry for me because of what she was "putting me through," and I kept wishing it was me diagnosed with lung cancer, instead of her. It made the randomness of us meeting each other seem more significant than ever before.

Jodi faced the challenges always with the courage of a great warrior. And quite honestly, after seeing her strength and determination, I would put her "up against anyone."

We began living with no regrets and did whatever we could when Jodi felt up to it. We took trips, saw the Grand Canyon, Pike's Peak, went horseback riding in the Rocky Mountains, and whitewater rafting in Colorado.

Ray and Jodi with their daughter

Jodi wasn't about to let cancer slow her down anymore than it had to. For two years we tried to ride the highs as long as we could.

Jodi's body gave up, but she never did. Even in her final days she was able reminisce about "old times" with family and friends. Sadly, Jodi died April 28, 2008.

Before Jodi died, she set off on a mission to make a difference and began the Jodi Lou Lung Cancer Fund. The goal is to fund lung cancer research by speeding up breakthroughs in the lab and bringing them to the patients’ bedside. And she wanted to save another parent the pain of having to say goodbye to their child.

In Jodi's words, "I never dreamt…now I dream."

Just remember the next time you hear the words – lung cancer. It doesn't matter if you smoked or not. It could happen to you!