MANITOWOC, Wis. — Jeanne Satori of Manitowoc is a retired first grade teacher, an avid skier and biker, and a non-smoker who nine months ago got a surprise diagnosis of incurable lung cancer.
"At first, I didn't really believe it you know. You kind of go into denial," she explained.
But when reality sunk in, Satori had to fight.
"When I get chemo, I just have no energy or you don't have an appetite, so it alters your life tremendously."
Satori's daughter, Pam Barton, said "Both her and I had to go through a grieving you know. She had to grieve her former self you know, that person who does everything."
Seeing the active 74-year-old so sick, Barton stepped up to serve as her mother's primary caregiver.
"Shopping, cooking, cleaning, so that the little energy that she did have, she could use it for the things that she loved like to go for a walk."
Barton spent many nights away from her husband to be by her mother's side. She even helped drain the fluid from Satori's lungs.
"To even contemplate that there would be a time you know where she wouldn't be around, that's hard," Barton said with tears in her eyes,
It's why she often drives her mom about 45 minutes away to her doctor's appointments at Aurora BayCare Medical Center.
"Pam is part of our health care team, valuable part, where she will go home and be our eyes and ears for Jeanne," said Cancer Nurse Navigator Meghan McHugh.
She does the same in the physician's office.
"I don't hear things Pam hears, and maybe I misinterpret things and she's like, 'I didn't hear that,'" Satori chuckled.
McHugh helps guide Barton through her mother's cancer journey.
"I'm the liaison between all the pieces of their care," she explained. "I encourage her to be present at the important doctor visits, helping her to know which doctor visits are the important visits, and helping her get the knowledge to help Jeanne make treatment decisions."
McHugh also helps caregivers get proper health care training and connects patients with local resources such as transportation or lodging. But most of all, she offers emotional support just like Barton does for her mother.
"We talked about how there's this role reversal. Mom took care of me when I was a little gir,l and to be able to have the time and the gift to give back to her has meant the world to me."
While caregivers do make sacrifices, Barton said it was a no brainer.
"It was an easy decision and it's a privilege and it's a pleasure."
She's grateful to have this time to make more memories with her mom.
"She's just been tremendous," said Satori.
We asked all three women what their advice is to caregivers and patients. They said keep communication open, inform family members of the latest medical developments, be open to differing opinions and accept the offer of help, but remember, the caregiver has a life too.