Remembering Jane, who did what she could

With International Women’s Day just around the corner, we’ve asked our ONE Moms and partners to write about ordinary women who have inspired them to be better activists. In this post, ONE Mom Elisa Morgan reminds us to make use of the time we have through the story of her friend, Jane.

After what seemed to be a “routine” hysterectomy, Jane discovered she had cancer, an aggressive, deadly cancer of the uterus. Vibrant Jane, in her early 60s, was still teaching kindergarten at the public magnet school she’d helped found 15 years prior. Her daughter was about to be married, her oldest son was about to make her a grandmother, and suddenly — Jane was dying.

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ONE Mom Elisa Morgan in Africa

Dying? No way!

After exhaustive and exhausting tests, Jane and her family came to terms with the poor prognosis, and Jane began treatment to prolong her life. Their goal was for Jane to attend her daughter’s wedding and hold her grandbaby.

Because Jane needed emergency treatment to stem internal bleeding, she missed the wedding celebration. But her daughter and the entire wedding party brought the real wedding to Jane, the bride and groom exchanging vows in the hospital chapel before returning to the site of the wedding and the reception.

Then, on schedule, Jane welcomed her first grandson, joyed beyond belief at his arrival.

In an unexpected season when good things happened only rarely, Jane received a treatment that extended her life. For more than a year after her diagnosis, Jane made her bed each morning and fixed dinner each night. She drove to the school she’d founded and volunteered there and at two other schools for three days a week because, she said, “the hardest part about cancer is having your purpose taken away.”

Jane still had cancer. The prognosis was that she would have an indefinite but likely short period of time for productive contribution. So Jane invested.

She did what she could.

Then two years ago, on International Women’s Day, Jane left this earth. I got the call when I was at a women’s advocacy conference in Washington, DC.

This year on International Women’s Day, I think of the women I’ve met this year who are doing what they can to change our world. I think of Hope who survived tuberculosis thanks to ONE’s partnership with on-the-ground treatment centers that made sure she took her meds. I think of Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize winning co-author of “Half the Sky,” who challenges us to speak up to end gender oppression. I remember the faces of Lucy and Sylvia, both diagnosed HIV-positive. I think of Kayla, head of the Center for Disease Control in Kenya, who guided us ONE Moms through the countryside to meet families receiving treatment.

And I think of Jane, who did what she could each day of her life. Am I? Are you?

-Elisa Morgan, publisher of FullFill, is the author of “She Did What She Could.

Which “ordinary woman” in your life inspires you to be a better activist? Tell us in the comments below, and we will feature them in a blog post on International Women’s Day.