Breaking news of cancer to daughters was hard part

"Just thinking about it now, I can feel the tears forming," Ronni Jacobs says.
"Just thinking about it now, I can feel the tears forming," Ronni Jacobs says.
Posted: October 14, 2012

Through Oct. 17, Philly.com/health and The Inquirer will mark breast cancer awareness month by publishing a profile a day of transformative moments reported by patients. The series will culminate in a special Philly.com/Inquirer section on Oct. 18, and can be viewed at www.philly.com/breastcancer.

Ronni Jacobs of Chestnut Hill is a single mother and has a special relationship with her two daughters, whom she raised by herself. The worst moment in her breast cancer journey was sharing the news with them.

"Just thinking about it now, I can feel the tears forming in my eyes," Ronni said. "Their father was never in the picture. When Jaime got married, Jaime, Amanda and I danced to 'In My Daughter's Eyes' by Martina McBride. There wasn't a dry eye in the place. It was wonderful. My dad walked Jaime down the aisle with me. Tears of joy lasted all day."

Ronni, 61 at the time of her diagnosis, worked at Curves, the women's gym, and took excellent care of herself, so it came as a shock. Telling Jaime, 26, and Amanda, 24 - she dreaded it.

"I called Jaime, since she lived in West Chester going to graduate school," Ronni said. "Jaime never stopped crying, never! She asked me a hundred questions, and came with me to the doctor, who answered everything and hugged us a lot. Her school friends got her through my illness. She cried in every class. When I met her friends, they told me they had never met anyone who loved her mom so much.

"My Amanda lived in town, so I asked her to have dinner with me. I was shaking and sweating when I got to her apartment. She was saying she had a bad day, so when I told her, she got up from her seat and ran into the bathroom and started screaming and crying and wouldn't let me in. This went on for some time until I coaxed her out. We hugged and she had that look on her face asking, 'Is my mom going to die?'

"They went through everything with me," Ronni said of her daughters. She held their hands and comforted them through the chemo and surgery. "It took my mind off of myself!" Ronni said.

Ronni is doing well now, 66, living in a small apartment. She's no longer working at Curves, but trying hard to follow through on a post-cancer resolution to do something nice for herself and for someone else every day.

"I tell myself I'm really funny or I'm smart because I answered questions on Jeopardy or I don't look bad for 66," she says. "Once a week I buy myself a muffin at Whole Foods and eat every wonderful crumb.

"I do similar things for others, as well," she said - "opening the door for someone, smiling into a sad lonely face, saying please and thank you and meaning it."

She spends a lot of time with Jaime and her family in Chester County's Honey Brook. "Jaime teaches second grade to students that adore her," says Ronni. She would never say that. Bob, my son-in-law, is the kindest person. He's a college graduate who works with his hands. He can build anything, cook anything and he plays several instruments. He is so wonderful to me. And then there is Westley, my 2-year-old delicious grandson, whom I adore. A baby girl is on her way in January.

"Amanda lives in Livingston Manor, N.Y., on an organic farm, where she is an intern. She loves walking around with baby chicks in her arms and making pies. She is a free spirit, her clothes never match. She is very quirky and in a lot of ways, my clone, only she's better. My girls hold such a special place in my heart.

"I am blessed in many ways that cannot be measured."

- Michael Vitez


Contact Michael Vitez at mvitez@phillynews.com or 215-854-5639.

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