Monday, June 29, 2015

An Extraordinary Life Well Lived

Fourth of July, 2014, Debbie Davis and Jeannie Allen
It’s slightly past midnight and I can’t sleep until I write something about how I feel at the loss of Jeanie. 

So, where to start? How do I capture the essence of what was Jeanie Allen? 

The first time that I can recall Jeanie was in Akron 2007. I was impressed that this transplanted Canadian volunteer firefighter had traveled to Ohio on her own dime to compete in “The Toughest Two Minutes in Sports.” Hearing of the hoops that she had jumped through to make this happen, I suggested that she take over the occupancy of my hotel room as I was headed to my next gig, thereby saving her at least one night’s lodging cost. 

Jeanie quickly found a friend in Cheri Ardoin- a racing partner for what would become the infamous Swamp Tatters female tandem team - a regular fixture on the tour. What a delight to be in their presence. They became honorary members of the Firefighter Combat Challenge Road Crew and made significant contributions to packing up at many venues.   The energy level climbed precipitously every time they joined our ranks. 

When I first heard that Jeanie had cancer, I was stunned. But reports of her surgical outcome seemed to be optimistic. She returned in full form and was once again back in the mix. But the cancer, one of the rarest and most aggressive came back. Jeanie was determined to beat the odds. At or about this time, I was working on a medical standards package for the NY Transit Authority. My physician cohorts were well-informed about the bleak prospects of a cure or even a remission. I thought, if anyone can pull this off, it’s Jeanie. 

When Jeanie mentioned that she had been accepted into a clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health, the medical Mecca of the world, Debbie, my wife and I were hopeful and delighted that the close proximity of our house to Bethesda would allow us to provide local support. We would have the honor of lodging Jeanie and her effervescent company for dinners as time would permit. A highlight was last year’s Fourth of July. We had arranged for a late dinner and viewing of the fireworks from the roof of the restaurant that overlooked the White House. 

I read and circulated every blog written by this incredibly buoyant personality; Jeanie was like Velcro. She gathered admirers as she traveled through all of the poking, prodding, stabbing and puncturing. Seemingly, by virtue of her radiance, she was going to beat this thing. The more people that we could expose to Jeanie, the greater the force field for helping her overcome clear cell sarcoma. 

We had tried so hard to bring the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge to the Idaho State Fair. The negotiations had seemed so positive since they had reached out to us very early in the season. The idea that we could hold an event in her home state would be yet another brick in the wall of success. For reasons still unknown, the Fair backed out. But, when Jeanie found out that Bellevue was a possibility, since she would be on one of her several trips to a new clinical trial, she was thrilled, as were we. 

Just a week ago, I confirmed in a text that we would be delighted to see that she got a ride to Sea-Tac airport with us after the event. Debbie and I were so looking forward to see her. The last Blog on Caring Bridge seemed to take the tack of resignation. A whole different tone, but still that determination to have that one last hurrah in the Bahamas. 

Jeanie (in the center) with the Firefighter Combat Challenge
Road Crew on the Snake River
When Cheri’s text hit my iPhone yesterday, I can only say that I was crushed. The last chance to say good bye had been snatched away. All last week, Daniel, Brent and I had been at Keiser’s working in the 106°F heat when we got the link to Jeanie’s last blog. I had started a letter over the weekend that I was going to send in anticipation of seeing her that one last time. 

So, my title to this BlogSpot was going to be something to the effect that Jeanie had lost her final battle; but no. Hell No! She beat cancer by years. She went out with an embolism, in the arms of her BFF, Cheri, at a place of her choosing. If you have to go, setting the time and place is not too bad. The entire Firefighter Combat Challenge community will soon know of her departure. But the grit, determination, the whole ethos of what made Jeanie Jeanie will never be forgotten. Everyone who knew Jeanie was improved by the experience. 

1 comment:

Denise Townshend said...

Great article to a great lady! thank you Dr Paul!
Denise Townshend
Petawawa Garrison Fire Dept.