How to live your last days: Cayucos woman fulfills her dreams

Jodi Fisher hands out free ice cream from a truck in Cayucos for her birthday.
Jodi Fisher hands out free ice cream from a truck in Cayucos for her birthday. jmellom@thetribunenews.com

Inside Jodi Fisher’s fragile body, cancer cells are aligned like stars speckled in the sky. Surgery is futile. Chemotherapy, not a cure.

Fisher, 44, is dying. But you wouldn’t know it. The Cayucos woman is a vivacious mother of two young children, a wife, a sister, a daughter. And, now, she is a fighter who has transformed having a terminal illness into a reason to embrace living.

She laughs often and has a knack for finding humor in even the most exhausting and challenging of circumstances.

Fisher’s first battle with cancer began seven years ago when a malignant cyst was discovered in her cervix. After two surgeries, doctors called her recovery a success.

Two years ago, the cancer returned. This time it spread to her stomach. It was inoperable.

“I felt lucky that I was well for so long, but I knew that this time it was going to be a longer road,” Fisher said.

She’s been in ongoing chemotherapy treatments since the cancer returned, losing her hair three times. Most days she wears knit hats; on other days, stylish wigs of chic cuts she always wanted to try.

The treatments make her nauseous and miserable. Some days it is difficult to get out of bed. But Fisher always does — especially since she learned that doctors only gave her two years to live when the cancer returned.

“I don’t feel like I have an expiration date on me,” Fisher said.

Making a bucket list was her daughter Callie’s idea. At first, Fisher and her husband, Shawn, called it a “fun list” so it wouldn’t seem so tragic for Callie, 11, and their son, Jonah, 9.

“I was always trying to protect people from the reality of it,” Fisher said. “But now, it’s like, ‘Screw it, let’s have fun.’ ”

With the generosity of friends, family and even strangers, the family has since traveled to Disneyland, Yosemite and San Francisco. They rented a limousine to drive up the coast to Cambria to eat french fries.

Some desires might take more coordination. One day, Fisher would like to see the northern lights and visit the Ellen DeGeneres show. She’d like to shake President Barack Obama’s hand.

Other items on the list might seem simple to those who aren’t dying: letting the kids ditch school one day to go to the movies, eating more lobster, delivering cookies to friends at Christmas.

But for Fisher and her family, each and every moment has become a blessing, and it’s the simplest of things that bring joy.

Handing out free ice cream in her hometown of Cayucos from an ice cream truck to celebrate her 44th birthday — which she did Saturday — was a way of giving back. But it was also a way to just have fun. Tears filled her eyes when she talked about her children. Once, a woman with cancer who had two young children confided in Fisher that she just wanted her children to remember her.

“I am so grateful that mine will remember me,” Fisher said, her eyes glassy with emotion. “It can always be worse. I’m still here, and that is a gift.”

She’s started to put things together for her kids — knowing that at some point they will be without her. Greeting cards are tucked away, photo albums of their childhood, a DVD full of memories.

“It’s not like an ‘I died’ DVD,” Fisher said. “It’s the fact that I am dying that makes it sad — otherwise it wouldn’t be.”

It’s with her humor, acceptance and grace that Fisher has tried to prepare her family for a future that she likely won’t be a part of.

“The hardest part is there is no control in cancer,” Fisher said. “I tell my kids that the way you look at things is where you have the power.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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