Connie Laux, left, and her daughter Michelle stand in their kitchen holding a portrait of Bob Laux, who died from colon cancer 24 years ago. Connie Laux is currently battling the same disease after finding a tumor in her colon five years ago. (The Commercial Review/Kelly Lynch)
Connie Laux, left, and her daughter Michelle stand in their kitchen holding a portrait of Bob Laux, who died from colon cancer 24 years ago. Connie Laux is currently battling the same disease after finding a tumor in her colon five years ago. (The Commercial Review/Kelly Lynch)
“I feel good.”
In her fifth year of battling colon cancer, Connie Laux’s response is a show of the strength to which she holds dear.
“I’ve never cried one time over it. There’s no need to. There’s people a lot worse off than me, that’s how I feel,” said Laux. “My friends say, ‘I don’t know how you can be so strong.’ I just am.”
She finds that strength through faith.
Employing a mantra of “let go and let God,” she’s endured years of chemotherapy and treatments after doctors found a tumor the size of a lemon and 20 cancerous lymph nodes in her colon in 2009. The cancer had also metastasized in her liver and neck.
It was the first time in her life she’d ever been admitted to a hospital, other than giving birth to her daughter, Michelle.
That’s not to say she’s unfamiliar with hospitals.
Laux’s husband died 24 years ago of the same disease she’s fighting today — colon cancer.
Bob Laux’s battle was shorter than Connie’s, as he survived eight months after he was diagnosed. And the loss of a father and husband left a hole that couldn’t be filled.
“He was such a good guy and a giver, and he had colon cancer, liver cancer and then he had a brain tumor,” said Laux. “This lady I run around with, her husband … said, ‘Connie could look forever and she’d never find anyone as nice as Bob.’ He was a good one.”
Michelle Laux, then a recent high school graduate, had to learn how to balance a work life with one spent as a caregiver.
She recalls times when her father wanted to get to his job at Portland Forge without his coworkers realizing his pain, asking her to help him to the door, where he would straighten up and continue to his desk as if the brain tumor wasn’t causing him blurry vision or a wobbly walk.
“It was hard, having to grow up real fast,” said Michelle Laux. “Finding a job and running to Fort Wayne everyday, it was hard.”
Connie Laux doesn’t feel angry about losing her husband to colon cancer, but she does find herself questioning why he was taken so early. His passing was just shy of their 25th wedding anniversary, a point she’s reminded of every time she sees an anniversary announcement in the newspaper.
“I just thought it wasn’t fair. You hear couples fighting and this and that, and I thought, ‘We didn’t do that. Why can’t Bob be here?’” said Connie Laux. “We have so many memories. We traveled, went different places. Nobody can take them away from us.”
Despite the loss of her husband, Connie Laux decided she couldn’t stop living her life. She continued her work with Jay School Corporation as a special education teacher, which eventually switched to work with Jay-Randolph Developmental Services.
“I just thought, I’ve got to go on,” said Connie Laux. “I’ve got to pick up and go on so that’s what I had to do.”
When Michelle Laux found out her mother had developed the same cancer that took her father, it brought back memories of him and again placed on her the responsibility of caregiver, a role she was willing to take on.
“It was very scary, and I was very shocked that is was the exact same kind, the exact same place. I was surprised to hear that,” said Michelle Laux. “I knew a lot this time of what she was going to be going through or possibly going through from what he went through.”
Connie Laux currently lives with her daughter in Portland to make that responsibility a little easier, but it’s still a full-time position alongside Michelle’s other work — she followed in her mother’s footsteps at Jay-Randolph Developmental Services. Connie’s chemotherapy is currently on hold, as recent treatments made her dangerously ill, but she will continue to go in for check-ups so doctors can monitor the status of the cancer.
While she feels good now, with the ability to walk around and drive a car, Connie has had periods in which she had to be at the hospital five days a week. The commute to Muncie wasn’t the easiest for Michelle to arrange around 12-hour work days.
“Some weeks, it’s not every day, but it feels like it’s every day,” said Michelle Laux.
The arrangement can be tiring, but Connie Laux sees and appreciates the sacrifice and effort her daughter puts into her care.
“My daughter helps me so much,” said Connie Laux. “I just think you take each day at a time, you know. Sometimes when my husband was bad, it was one minute at a time.”
Some may become resentful from watching their parents battle such a debilitating disease, but Michelle Laux stays grounded in her faith, just like her mother. She even sometimes accompanies her mother to a weekly cancer support group.
“I get bitter. It makes you bitter a little bit. (I) just try to pray about it, and it gets better. You have to stay strong,” said Michelle Laux. “I don’t know how you could deal with it if you didn’t have (faith).”