When Jodi Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2010, it seemed she wasn't going to have very much fun over the coming months. There would be 20 weeks of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatments.
Allen said as much to her sister Jeni. “You know, it's a really heavy place,” Allen said. “My sister Jeni said, 'What if you have a little fun with it?'”
So when she went in for chemotherapy treatments, she dressed in outlandish costumes. Whoever accompanies Allen dresses up, too. They've gone dressed as pirates, clowns and princesses, and in themes such as an Hawaiian luau, safari attire and the St. Louis Cardinals. She's earned the nickname "Crazy Chemo Lady" at Missouri Baptist Medical's Cancer Center.
“We hand out trinkets and encourage others,” Allen said. “We gave out peanuts and Cracker Jacks on Cardinal's day and clown noses on clown day. It makes the other patients laugh.”
It makes the nurses laugh, too; they first coined the nickname. Allen said she has been told by many patients how much her attitude as rubbed off on them and helped them cope with a serious illness.
“I was really touched by the response I got from the staff and patients,” Allen said. “Cancer is not a reason not to have fun, and it works. You can still give joy to others.”
Allen completed chemotherapy, had surgery to remove the tumor and had a lymphectomy to remove 20 lymph nodes. The tumor removal was successful, but one of the lymph nodes was cancerous. Now, Allen is undergoing radiation treatments, and her inspirational antics are not finished. The Crazy Chemo Lady has morphed—like a superhero exposed to radiation—into Super Radiator. She wears a blue tee shirt with a large “S” on the front and a bright red cape with a big star on it.
She encourages others to brighten someone else's day, too. Anyone can sign up on her website at caringbridge.com to be a super radiator for a day. The only requirement is that they do something special for someone else.
“People have sent flowers for no reason or bought lunch for the person behind them in line,” Allen said. “I put the person's name who is the Super Radiator that day in the star on my cape.”
Allen's drive has been fueled by more than a need to keep a positive outlook. “I had pretty aggressive cancer with a large tumor,” she said. “My faith is the most important thing. God led me to this journey to help others. It takes my mind off the statistics.”
Allen will finish radiation treatments at the end of February. Once the treatements are done, she hopes to declare herself a breast cancer survivor, she said.
Like every notable neighbor, Allen was asked to say the first word that popped into her mind. She said “glitter.” It's the perfect answer. When she walks into the cancer center, she is like a handful of glitter, bringing a little sparkle to an otherwise dreary landscape. And glitter tends to get on everybody.
“When you reach out to light someone else's candle, yours doesn't have to extinguish,” she said. “You own it. It just keeps going.”
Each notable neighbor is asked a series of unrelated questions to offer us some insight into what makes them who they are.
What movie have you seen most recently? Social Network.
What type of shoes do you wear most often? I was a high-heel girl. Now I'm a flip-flop mom.
Do you like to dance? Absolutely.
Is your life a Fox Trot? Tango? Twist? Hip Hop? Waltz? A jazzy routine.
What's your favorite food? Cupcakes
If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what single thing would you most want with you? My family.
What time did you go to bed last night? 11 p.m. It was the Super Bowl.
What do you use a computer for? For blogging this journey.
If you could have a conversation with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be? Mother Teresa
What is your favorite TV show? Whatever entertains my children.
What did you have for breakfast this morning? (laughs) A cupcake.
Would you say you are handsome? pretty? cute? hunka-hunka burnin' love? Cute
If you were a superhero, which one would you be? Wonder Woman
Are you Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck? I feel like Porky Pig. Um...Bugs Bunny.
Would you describe yourself as quiet, outgoing, gregarious, pleasant, or grouchy? Depends on when you ask me.
Wool, cotton or silk? Spandex.
What's your favorite book? The Bible and Goodnight Moon, a children's book.
Each person Patch interviews is asked to say a word, which then becomes part of a continuous thread. We'll attempt to make sentences, or possibly a poem, when we have enough words.
Say any word that pops into your head. Glitter
The thread so far:
"Surprise soccer Indian purple love hard going sunshine frolic why helicopter solution happy glitter."
To access Jodi Allen's website, go to caringbridge.org and enter jodijallen in the “Visit a Website” box.