Chuck Jackel and Jayne Ashby were born in Tacoma General Hospital a year apart, met in a Stadium High journalism class and married in 1987.
He joined the Navy. She had a daughter, Lauren, and worked for 10 years at Bates Technical College — finding time to run marathons, compete in triathlons and, oh yes, finish college.
“Jayne has been my best friend since high school,” Jackel said. “She’s an amazing woman, the most determined person I’ve ever known.”
Daughter Lauren, born 21 years ago in Tacoma, inherited some of her mother’s determination, and when her father was deployed and it was just she and mom at home, that could be … complicated.
“From the time I was 11 to about 13, I was crazy,” Lauren said. “I was a challenge.”
Jayne laughed at that assessment.
“We were lucky to get her into a private high school, Annie Wright, and get her a bit more grounded,” she said. “Lauren’s a great kid.”
Today, Lauren is finishing her bachelor’s degree in science and psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and will graduate May 10.
A little more than three years ago, Jayne decided to pursue her Ph.D. in psychology, and Jackel, then out of the Navy, came up with a plan.
“She wanted a doctorate, and we decided wherever she was accepted, we’d go,” he said. “She was accepted at Illinois Institute of Technology and we moved to Chicago, where Lauren was already in school.”
During orientation week — on June 22, 2011 — Jayne was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Instantly, the lives of all three family members changed.
“I believed it was something I could have surgery and treatment and that would take care of it,” Jayne said. “The last month and a half, we realized all those treatments aren’t doing anything.”
From the beginning of her battle, family and friends in the Northwest have followed it closely. At Bates, former co-workers have stayed in touch. One instructor, reached by telephone this week, choked up when Jayne’s name was mentioned and couldn’t talk.
Another, Robin Stanton, managed.
“Students loved her, she was a perfect role model, she listened,” Stanton said. “She was small — not quite 5 feet tall — but she was a spitfire. At a meeting one time she got so mad she threw a chair.
“When we first heard her diagnosis, I remember joking, ‘Her doctors better not make her mad.’ Everyone here loves Jayne.”
Diagnosed with stage 3-C advanced cancer, Jayne knew beating the disease was unlikely. So she set a goal and has pushed herself toward it — Lauren’s college graduation.
“That’s been her target since diagnosis,” Jackel said.
“Her goal means everything to me,” Lauren said. “I went to private school in Tacoma, and the goal was go to college and now it’s so close. I would love to be able to look up and see her in the audience.
“I know she always had my back. I’d like her to see it through the end.”
Jayne has endured months of chemotherapy, a radical hysterectomy, the removal of much of her colon. Last month, the family was told the cancer had spread.
“The graduation? That’s a challenge,” Jayne said. “It’s hard getting up, getting going each day. My goal is to be at her graduation, but it’s been a rough last month.”
She is 44 years old and dying, but says there’s a message in her efforts.
“I’d like people to know you can fight,” Jayne said. “That even if you can’t change what happens in the end, you can get a different conclusion. Getting to the graduation …”
She couldn’t finish that thought, overcome briefly with emotion. At home under hospice care, she is surrounded by love — her mother, Chuck’s uncle, her husband, daughter and a couple of dogs.
They all see what she goes through daily.
It’s confused the issue for Chuck.
“Lauren and I have talked about it, and wondered what to pray for,” he said. “Do we ask that Jayne make the graduation, knowing what she’s enduring? I do want people to know how hard she’s worked, how much she’s been through, trying to get to May 10.”
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638