Jenna Langer Vancura, whom I wrote about in September, died on Saturday. She was just 28.
The Woodbury and New Ulm native chronicled her life with cancer on her blog, The Redhead Report, and visited MPR’s Daily Circuit a few times too.
She had three bouts with cancer, then announced in September — 11 years to the day after her first cancer was discovered — that it would claim her life.
She said that she hopes people will remember her “as someone who cared about people with much bigger problems than I had.”
Her last blog post was in early November.
As Pope Francis recently said, there is no God with a magic wand who arranges everything for us. Rather, we find reason or reason with the bad things. That’s good. That helps us overcome the bad things in which we are lucky enough to find a silver lining, like a cancer diagnosis. I’ve received more love in my short lifetime than most people ever will, and I know it. I’m humbled. But when it comes to my cancerous past and future, I can honestly say I’ve never been inclined to ask, “Why me?”. I think it’s because I consider the question futile and without an answer. There is no reason.
Update 1/6 – Her husband finished her last blog post.
Okay. I know I haven’t written in a while. A really long while. Sorry. Admittedly I’m a little lackluster in terms of motivation.
Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been home from the Iowa tropics and in New Ulm. It’s a tough decision but luckily Jimmy was home for most of it. I’ve come to the point where I can’t be home alone all day and I don’t have near the support network in Iowa City as I do in the motherland.” – Jenna C. Langer
Jenna died on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. before she could finish her last Redhead Report post. Her last post, as quoted above, remained incomplete for good reason. It wasn’t incapacitation or a lack of her ferocious redhead fighting spirit that prevented her last post; rather, Jenna put what remaining energy she had into the people that she loved. This is the abbreviated story of her last month.
Jenna always wanted everything to be wonderful and beautiful. Thanksgiving was no exception. Her infectious radiance permeated Thanksgiving at her Aunt Cate’s. She continued the beautiful mission of her life a few days later when her childhood friend, Danny Schreiber and his fiancé, Shannon, invited her to a friend’s 30th birthday party. Jenna accepted the invitation, wore a stunning dress, and defined beauty and class as she sat and conversed with friends and complete strangers alike. She then fussed over getting Christmas cards out and picking the perfect gifts for her family and friends. With that goal accomplished and the arrival of Christmas, Jenna became the nightly referee of scrabble matches between her brother, Jack, and her mother, Lisa. She also partook in the family tradition of watching It’s a Wonderful Life. While Old Saint Nick headed to the North Pole, Jenna and I drove back to Iowa blasting KC and JoJo for our last weekend in Iowa City.
The normalcy of times past permeated the weekend. We lounged around, drank beer, and ate burgers as we watched Gonzaga basketball. In the morning, she sat in the sunshine of our living room and read the New York Times. We cuddled the rest of the day together in the home she so thoughtfully and beautifully created.
When she returned to New Ulm the following day, she created daily plans for herself and a host of other plans when I could return home. On New Year’s Day, she drove to Wisconsin to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with her dad, Kurt, and his family at her Aunt Ann’s home. She came home and felt tired but still called to say she loved me and wished me a good day at work.
Jenna went into liver and kidney failure on January 1st, 2015 as a result of the disease she had defied for 12 years. I did not think death was so indiscriminate or callous as to kill Jenna. But despite multiple organ failures, she still managed to perk up and say she loved me and gave me a kiss before returning to unconsciousness. Jenna was not in pain and surrounded by her family until her last breath.
The finest poets and novelists could not adequately convey Jenna’s gratitude to the people who supported her over the last 12 years. She is eternally grateful, and I say, on her behalf, “Thank you all.”
The Redhead Report, which chronicled the joys and tribulations of her singular life, was Jenna’s voice to the world, and, most importantly, to those who will undergo the scourge of cancer. It will end later this week with the same voice in the form of her obituary, composed to all of you, with love, from Jenna Catherine Langer Vancura.
-Jenna Langer Vancura. Completed by Jimmy Vancura. Edited by Franz Vancura.