Story last updated at 3/4/2009 - 11:01 am
JUNEAU - "This is no plan for sissies," wrote Donna J. Carroll Noel in her online journal on Feb. 28. "This is a full time job."
Carroll is undergoing extensive treatment for lymphoma. She was first diagnosed more than a decade ago, in 1998, and her cancer is now diagnosed as stage four follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"This type of cancer never gets cured, it just gets beaten back," said Brenda Wright, Carroll's sister-in-law and good friend. "The lymphoma-type cancers ... grow really slowly, so it's harder to kill them."
Carroll, who has lived in Juneau since the 80s, has been able to have most of her previous treatments in Juneau, but now must spend five months in Seattle for chemotherapy and radiation procedures not available in Juneau.
She's been in Seattle for treatment since the beginning of January, and she'll be there through May. Wright said Carroll's daughter has been living in Seattle for two years, and her husband is also there as a primary caregiver, so he's not working either.
"It's the kind of treatment where you can't help yourself," Wright said. "This is one of those they do at the last gasp - very strong chemicals they're using. It has to be done in sequence or it won't work.
Carroll has already had two very strong does of chemotherapy.
"It's actually going really well," Wright said.
Over the course of her battle with the cancer, Carroll has used up her available leave with the State of Alaska as well as her financial resources, Wright said. So, Wright - along with Cindy Hartmann and other friends and community members - is organizing a fundraiser on Saturday, March 7 at the St. Ann's Hall, with music, jambalaya and auctions.
"They've been gracious, so many nice folks donating already it's really great," Wright said. "The grocery stores came through with some gift certificates, so we won't have to pay money for the food."
Wright's husband, Jim Noel, plays in Fleetstreet, the jazz band that will be performing at the fundraiser, dubbed "Jambalaya and Jazz." Abby LaForce Roha of Abby's Kitchen will help prepare the meal. And although the rest of Noel's family is on the east coast, her brother and sister are baking desserts for the auction, Wright said.
The goal for the fundraiser is about $7,000 - just enough to pay for her living expenses in Seattle.
"We just really want to be able to pay her living expenses because her medical expenses are so high," Wright said.
Individuals and organizations throughout the community are chipping in. The Knights of Columbus Council 11757 are donating gross proceeds from St. Paul's Catholic Church February Sunday brunch to the benefit fund. And the young Daisies of Girl Scout Troop 7 will earn their "compassion and caring" pedals by sending a care package to Carroll.
Right now Carroll, who "loves to talk to people and find out about people," is unable to talk on the phone easily, Wright said.
A web page on www.caringbridge.com is helping Carroll connect with friends, family and well-wishers. Visitors to the site can view her journal, sign her guestbook and find out about her progress with her treatments.
"It's a wonderful program," Wright said. "She can't talk on the phone right now very easily. Friendly emails are just cheering her up, or signing the journal or guest book."
Carroll brought two quilting projects with her to Seattle, in case she had the energy, Wright said. In addition to being an avid quilter, Carroll also enjoys gathering mushrooms and is a "whiz at math."
Wright said Carroll hopes to take a road trip with her daughter this summer once the treatment is over and then have her strength back to be able to return to work.
"She's really hoping that by August she's out there looking for mushrooms, by golly," Wright said.
The "Jambalaya and Jazz" fundraiser will take place Saturday, March 7 at St. Ann's Hall. Doors open at 6 p.m. and dinner and music start at 6:30 p.m. For more information contact Brenda Wright at 789-4656 or Cindy Hartmann at 789-3259.
Monetary donations can also be deposited into Donna J. Carroll's account, "Donna Carroll Noel Care Fund," at First National Bank of Alaska.
Track Carroll's progress and leave messages for her at www.caringbridge.org/visit/djcarroll.