UNMC News

Sisters, roommates, cancer fighters

They're going to be roommates.

True, Joanne (pronounced "Joanie") Kaslon already lives with her big sister, Jenny Cich, and her husband, while Joanne studies at UNMC's School of Allied Health Professions. But this time is different.

They'll be up in apartments at The Lied Transplant Center, fifth floor; cooperative care. As the caregiver, Joanne will watch Jenny's vitals, alert nurses and doctors, get her sister to the treatment center every day and make sure she takes her medications.

picture disc.
Jenny Cich and her sister, UNMC School of Allied Health Professions student Joanne Kaslon.
Getting her sister back

Jenny is in her third bout with cancer. Joanne is days from graduation. She'll be a radiation therapist and will fight cancer every day.

"I wanted to give somebody else that joy of having their family back," Jenny said. "Because it was something that was given back to me, not once, but twice; now going on three times.

"It's a good feeling to get your family member back."

Jenny passed her the tissues. The kind with flowers on the front.

Jarring news

The first time Joanne heard the news, she was 11. She and another sister had just come home from taekwondo. Their dad was waiting for them at the kitchen table.

The next morning, Jenny, then 22, was at UNMC. It was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"That was the year our brother John got married," Jenny said. "So I was bridesmaid with no hair."

Yet again

The second time, five years later.

Hodgkin's disease, a different lymphoma. Chemo, radiation, a stem cell transplant.

Meanwhile, another brother (there are seven siblings in the family) had another wedding.

"I didn't have hair for that one, either," Jenny said.

Then, this past Christmas, the third time: Hodgkin's disease again. Joanne's been with her big sister through it all.

Life goes on

"We have another sister getting married in June," Joanne said. "So Jenny also will be bald for that one."

At Jenny's own wedding, her hair was short; it was still coming back.

"We'll get a family picture with hair one of these days," Joanne said.

Sisters

As time has passed, the 11-year age gap between the sisters no longer matters.

"We got asked if we were twins when she had her last biopsy," Joanne said.

"I was like, 'Ooh,'" Jenny said. Not good.

No, not twins. But sisters. And now roommates taking on cancer, together. A big sister who is a fighter. A little sister who has taken up the fight.

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Darcy Lingwall
March 29, 2021 at 12:11 PM

Jenny, I bought your Quilled silver edged white cross at relay in 2012 and was looking at it today. I just love it and looked you up to see how you are doing. Hope all is still well. My daughter Tracy Harnly passed in 2011 from breast cancer so i support Relay for Life .Anyway i treasure your art, it is beautiful. Be happy.

Arlene
May 07, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Fantastic story! And I love the picture! You make quite a team! I'm really proud of you! Go Girls!!!!!!!

Johna Meints
May 03, 2012 at 4:42 PM

I hope you can feel our loving arms around you both. You are in our thoughts and Prayers. Take care.

Colleen Stonecipher
May 03, 2012 at 3:59 PM

I have been blessed to call these two extraordinary women my friends. Jenny pursues her life and loves with a passion, joy and orneriness that is inspirational. I dare any one to spend time with her and not be a better person for it. Miss Jonanne is such a bright, compassionate and dedicated young woman who will truly bring her life experiences to work with her, and for that many, many people will be better for. Hang in there ladies and know you've got a BIG team of fans rooting for you!!!

Nichi Robertson
May 03, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Jenny, you have an amazing family!!! :) xoxo You will kick this again!!

Melissa Wilke
May 03, 2012 at 12:05 PM

What a great story! We miss you at work, Jenny. Take care & we'll see you soon!

Kathy Christensen
May 03, 2012 at 7:31 AM

You girls make me get out the kleenex ( no flowers/toilet paper). Think of you everyday, you are family to me. Love Kathy

Brittany Christensen
May 02, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Love this story. Amazing :)

Jeanene Kaslon
May 02, 2012 at 2:56 PM

Joanne you're stealing the spotlight!!! just teasing :) don't forget i'm the one bringing the Wii for you two to play mario on when the days get rough! I massively love both of you :') <3

Julie Ditter
May 02, 2012 at 10:22 AM

There is no better gift than a great family! God bless you both and keep fighting. I will keep you in my prayers.

Marcia Hess Smith
May 02, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Thank you for sharing your story. Nothing like the bonds of sisters. Prayers and best wishes to Jenny and her family and what an inspiration Joanne is.

Mary Bernhagen
May 02, 2012 at 7:27 AM

Beautiful story! Their love and dedication are a true inspiration. I wish both of them the very best.