As President Barack Obama leaned over the fence to embrace Jodi Fisher on Thursday, another of her dreams was realized.
In an astonishing journey that began just days ago, the Cayucos woman has not only inspired a multitude of others by sharing her battle with inoperable cancer, but she’s been graced by that compassion coming full circle.
Fisher’s wish to meet Obama, included on her bucket list — which she also called a “fun” list — was fulfilled when two local residents read her story in The Tribune four days earlier and took a chance by asking if anything could be done to make it happen.
On Thursday, Fisher, with a smile beaming on her face, met the president after he landed at San Francisco International Airport for a campaign swing. Fisher, 44, was joined by her husband, Shawn, and two children, Callie, 11, and Jonah, 9.
“I felt like I was holding all the other people who have cancer with me,” Fisher said.
Obama shook their hands, addressed Fisher by name and hugged her close, and he told her to keep fighting.
Fisher, who was diagnosed nearly two years ago, is doing just that. She has transformed living with a terminal illness into a way to embrace living.
“If you believe in something, you might as well put it out there. Never doubt it,” Fisher said. “This story shows that it is not just because I have cancer. People are kind, and even the smallest of pay-it-forward gestures make huge things happen — it is possible.” Her desire to meet Obama was born of her struggle with cancer.
“I feel like he is a person who really does care about people,” Fisher said. “He is a dad, a husband, and he lost his mom to cancer. I look up to him and can only imagine how frustrating it would be to be president and not be able to make changes.”
Fisher said the frustration of dealing with insurance companies and continually advocating for the medical treatments she needs can be exhausting.
“I get frustrated just with medical issues — can you imagine being president of the United States?” Fisher said. “No matter what political party you are, if you care about something, you should go after it and make change.”
In a letter she wrote before meeting Obama — which he took from her and slipped into his pocket — she affirmed her support for him.
“I told him to remain calm and carry on,” Fisher said. “Then I asked him if I could be president for the day.”
It’s Fisher’s quick wit, confidence and optimism that have carried her and loved ones through her battle.
On Thursday, Fisher’s parents, Doug and Pam Hamp of Morro Bay, watched her meet the president on a live newscast carried online by a Bay Area television channel.
Their daughter’s poignant journey brings both pain and gratification in watching her inspire others and fulfill her dreams.
“As great as it was watching her today, it was also very sad,” Doug Hamp said. “You hope that the strength in her is what may get her through this. You have to think the best, and that is what we do. She makes that easy for us.”
Hamp said it has been unbelievable to watch Fisher’s wishes materialize.
One of those occurred last weekend, when she delivered free ice cream treats to neighborhoods in Cayucos.
“It is so hard because she is your little kid,” Hamp said. “I keep telling myself, ‘You need to toughen up, buddy’ because look at her.” Despite her illness, Fisher continues to live boisterously. Her laughter is infectious. And her strength is felt by all those near to her.
“Don’t let it take an illness to make you realize life is short,” Fisher said. “If you are not happy, make changes, and if you want something, then make it happen. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do it.”
Fisher feels lucky.
“I have done a lot of great things, met some really great people and I feel very content with my life. I don’t know if everyone can say that. I am grateful that I can look at my kids and see that they are learning from that and really getting it.”