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Relay for Life: Farmington couple battles cancer together

Pete and Judy Chown have been married for 43 years. They met when Judy worked as Pete's secretary. The couple has lived in Empire Township more than 30 years.

Pete and Judy Chown have been through a lot together in 43 years of marriage. They've raised a family and built a life, and for the last six years they've battled cancer. Both of them.

It was Pete who was diagnosed first, though not by much. Six years ago he went in for his annual physical and learned he had prostate cancer. He opted for what he called radical surgery, and things went well, but while he was in the recovery room Judy started to feel sick. She was diagnosed with an intestinal blockage, and by the time she got home from the doctor she had a message that doctors had found a tumor. She turned around and went back to the hospital for emergency surgery.

"I was in Regina, and she was in United," Pete said.

In the years since, the couple has been through a number of ups and downs related to cancer. Judy has had six surgeries since her diagnosis, and Pete was diagnosed two years ago with stage four colon cancer. Depending on the time and where they are in their treatment schedules, each has been a patient, and each has been a caregiver.

That can be a good thing - each has a pretty good idea what the other is going through when they are having a bad day - but it can also be a challenge.

"It both helps, and it also is a burden at the same time, because when she's down I have to really be up," Pete said. "When I kind of get down, she's up and brings me up."

For the most part, outside of that first incident six years ago, the couple has had their really down moments at different times. The closest they came to being in the hospital at the same time was last summer, when they had surgery less than two months apart.

They have dealt with the difficulties, though. There's nothing else they can do. The cancer causes some day-to-day discomfort, and it has kept Pete, a recreational pilot, out of the air, but that's still better than the alternative.

On Friday, Pete and Judy will be recognized as survivors at Farmington's annual Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. They will be singled out at the beginning of the overnight walk, then spend the night walking with friends, family and strangers they will feel connected to simply because they have all been touched by cancer.

"It's just a night to party," Judy said.

Judy has been involved in the event and its predecessor, the Ramble and Amble, since before either she or Pete was diagnosed. She loves the night and the sense of community that comes with it. She was scheduled to walk last year, but a last-minute surgery kept her away.

Now, both Pete and Judy have been declared cancer-free.

"I'm healthy as a horse if I didn't have cancer," Judy said.

They're ready to walk, and you can bet they'll do it together.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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