Dream comes true for cancer patient

Sisters trek from Missouri to Steamboat for one last ride

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Missouri resident Vickie Bohannon, right, laughs with her sister LeeAnn Yeargain after flying in a hot air balloon Saturday. Bohannon is dying of pancreatic cancer and had one last dream of seeing the Colorado Rockies before passing away.

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Vickie Bohannon, right, cracks a joke as her sister LeeAnn Yeargain doubles over with laughter before the pair boarded the Wild West hot air balloon on Saturday morning in Steamboat Springs. Bohannon is living with Stage IV pancreatic cancer and traveled to Steamboat Springs with her sister as part of a Dream Foundation wish.

— Vickie Bohannon doesn't have much of an appetite these days, but she craved "gravy and biscuits" Saturday morning. Her accent is as thick as the July humidity in her hometown of Sikeston, Mo., and it's hard to tell after spending any length of time with Bohannon that she is sick.

Her thin frame is the only indication that she is ill.

"Bony maroni," she calls it.

Bohannon's contagious laugh, a raucous sense of humor and passion for life are to be envied, but you can't dismiss the reality that she is dying from Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

She was told last Thursday that she had weeks or months to live. It's a prognosis Bohannon refuses to accept.

"I told (the doctor) I wasn't going to die," she said over a plate of gravy and biscuits at Creekside Cafe on Saturday. "I'm gonna fight. You ain't never seen anybody like me."

Bohannon and her younger sister, LeeAnn Yeargain, 50, have spent five days in Steamboat Springs to fulfill one of Bohannon's dreams - to see Colorado before she dies.

"I went through Colorado one time about 11 or 12 years ago. I cried when I saw a mountain," she said. "All I could say was that this is God's country. Since that's the direction I'm heading in, I though I might want to see it again."

Bohannon's dream was made possible through the California-based Dream Foundation, the nation's first wish-granting organization for adults facing terminal illness. The organization depends solely on donations to grant the wishes of people like Bohannon.

Nancy Taylor, a Dream Foundation volunteer in Golden, has put together three dreams, including Bohannon's. Sending Bohannon and her sister 3,000 feet in the sky in a hot air balloon Saturday was part of the dream. Taylor said helping people create good memories in their final days, weeks or months is what the Dream Foundation is all about.

"Vickie is the perfect example - she won't be here much longer, and instead of her family having memories of bad news, chemotherapy, drugs and hospitals, they'll remember these days," she said. "It's good for her, but it's awesome for those left behind."

Helping make dreams come true is a profound experience that has a tendency to pay forward, Taylor said.

"It effects not only the (dream) recipient and the family, but it goes out to the whole community," she said. "What happens is that every person that's involved in a dream is touched and goes around with this sense of fulfillment, hope. You'll go home and love a little bit more, tweak your priorities a little and be a little more appreciative of what you have."

Wild West Balloon Adventures of Steamboat Springs gladly took the self-described "corn-fed boothill babies" up for an early morning Yampa Valley ride.

"It was an early morning for us," Yeargain said. "I rolled over and said, 'Wake up pretty girl. Wake up.' Then I flipped the light switch and left the room."

Yeargain said she curled into bed with her older sister Friday night.

"I was hugging and kissing her. I don't care. I don't know how long I'm going to have her to do that," she said.

Yeargain, who affectionately refers to her sister as "sissy" and "Sister Sledge," said the hardest part is knowing her sister will die.

"She gets mad at me and says I'm in denial," Yeargain said. "I finally said, 'Fine, you're dying. Are you happy?' I just don't want to think about it. I don't want to lose my sissy."

Bohannon said her adult sons, ages 30 and 35, her parents, her older brother, Kenny, and her three grandsons have remained strong since she was diagnosed with cancer a year ago.

"I took each one of my grandbabies out of school one day - just them and me - to explain what was going to happen," Bohannon said. "My 9-year-old said, 'Nanny, does that mean you'll be cleaning house up there?' I said that I'd be mowing the lawn."

Bohannon's down-to-earth attitude continues to propel her through life.

"Her will power keeps her going," Yeargain said. "I know that if the doctors could bottle her attitude and give it to other patients, they would."

Despite losing about 50 pounds because of the treatments, Bohannon was eager to don a swimsuit to soak in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, spend some time shopping on Lincoln Avenue and add some high-altitude energy to her step.

"This is the first time in my life I know where I'm going," she said. "I've always wanted to be the first one in my family to do everything."

Comments

Neil O'Keeffe 7 years, 5 months ago

Very Powerful! An inspiration to all of us. Thank you Vickie!

"Turn inward search the bodymind for the unspoiled canvas upon which your life is painted.

With open hands and arms absorb the powerful simplicity of your own self in its last and genuine embrace." Lao-Tzu

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freshair 7 years, 5 months ago

Life is a Death sentence. Young, old, all must leave when their ticket is punched.

Freshair
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80488mom 7 years, 5 months ago

rokboat - thank you for sharing that verse. It was lovely.

This beautiful woman is an inspiration to all of us. May we all learn from her to embrace the moment with unencumbered joy.

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jensensutta 7 years, 5 months ago

Wonderfully written story! Representing the Dream Foundation, I was able to spend the afternoon with Vickie on Sunday and would love to share a slideshow with anyone interested in seeing more of Vickie's contagious smile!

www.jensensutta.com/slideshows/vickie

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Matt Stensland 7 years, 5 months ago

Very nice, Jensen. Thanks for contributing.

--Matt Stensland

Videographer/ Web producer Steamboat Pilot & Today 1901 Curve Plaza P.O. Box 774827 Steamboat Springs, CO 80477 mstensland@steamboatpilot.com 970-879-4247

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vstark 7 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for the article on Vickie and also for sharing the slideshow of photos.

I am a friend of Vickie's from Southeast Missouri and she is a truly remarkable person who, regardless of bad reports from doctors, has continued to live life to the fullest.

She has been an inspiration to her friends and family and we cherish each and every moment that we have left with her. When God decides that it is time for her to go, we will all suffer a deep loss, but our memories of her will live on forever.

Thank you Dream Foundation and Wild West Balloon Adventures for making Vickie's wish come true.

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greenjeans 7 years, 5 months ago

I am one of Vickie's life long friends from next door. Thanks to the Dream Foundation for making Vickie's wish come true and to all those who assisted in any way.

I'm so glad more people had the luxury of meeting this beautiful person. She has touched countless number of people, which has come to everyone's attention with the numerous visitors and phone calls she receives everyday. It will be heaven's blessing when she goes home and our loss till we meet again. Her memory will hold strong with us till then.

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