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Author: Bob Kallberg

Title: "Where The Popsicles Are"

Publisher: Rush Candle Books, 2017; 460 pp. of text with BW photos.

Bob Kallberg writes of the 12-year journey, from 1996 to 2008, he took with his wife, Joan “Joanie” Wigen, as she battled cervical cancer. The title of this memoir, “Where The Popsicles Are,” is taken from the fact during Wigen’s many treatments at the University of Minnesota Hospital on the Women’s Cancer Center floor 7C popsicles were always available in the freezer to give Joanie something cool and refreshing.

This memoir is evidence of the many friends she had. I was one of her friends as she and I worked together at Trinity Lutheran Church. Wigen loved politics and was a loyal and dedicated worker for Republican candidates.

Written in a very personal voice, you get an excellent broad account of not only her many medical procedures, but also of their day-to-day lives and emotions as Wigen fought this battle with Kallberg at her side. You will learn a lot about cancer and its impact on those affected by it: not just patient, but the family and friends who watch and pray as the disease is either halted and cured, or works its way to its inevitable conclusion.

Wigen fought her cancer to the finish, enduring many surgeries and procedures, radiation and chemotherapy, and countless trips to Minneapolis as well as stays in the hospital in Bismarck. Kallberg was with her, essentially journaling the times in their lives when Wigen’s cancer flared up. During those times, you get a very close and personal look at the ups and downs of Wigen’s battle against cancer.

When they came to a realization in 1996 Wigen’s symptoms required medical attention, their lives were changed over the next 12 years. Wigen was 46 and leading a full and productive life. She immediately determined she was going to battle her cancer and win. Kallberg notes her positive attitude, which shown through with every surgery and procedure. As Wigen’s caretaker and companion, Kallberg learned a lot of lessons which he shares in this memoir.

“Lesson One: Never let the patient see the doctor alone.” Kallberg writes: “It became obvious to me that while every cancer is different, every individual is different, and cervical cancer, or any cancer, for that matter, in one individual won’t be the same in one person as it is when it manifests itself in another. All of which makes the process of treatment more complicated.”

Kallberg describes cancer as the attack dog of major diseases.

“Once it sinks its teeth into you it doesn’t want to let go, and it messes with your mind, whether you are the patient or caregiver — the patient because of the threat to her life, and of the caregiver because of the feeling of helplessness.”

This memoir relentlessly discusses every surgery, procedure, radiation, chemotherapy, trip, sickness along their 12-year journey, but it also reveals the normal things of life they fought to enjoy. Dinners with friends, rewarding and enjoyable work, two precious Siamese cats, favorite CDs, being comfortable in their home and with one another.

On Sept. 25, 2007, they heard these words from her doctor: “We have run out of treatment options.”

Kallberg writes: “The radiation, surgeries and chemotherapy going back to 1996, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 were supposed to work. They didn’t.”

Wigen died in their home in Bismarck with Kallberg holding her hand on April 9, 2008. Very sad.

This is a well-written memoir about a wonderful woman. Anyone dealing with cancer will benefit from reading this book. Unfortunately, it does not have a happy ending.

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Bob Wefald is a retired North Dakota State District Court judge.  Wefald became a lawyer in 1970. His career included serving a year as a law clerk, four years as attorney general, more than 23 years in private practice in Bismarck and 12 years as a judge. He served as an officer in the Navy for three years of active duty plus 24 years in the Navy Reserve.

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