Penny Cookson

Tri for a Cure 2017


Ellen’s Cancer Journey


In June of 2016 we spent 10 days touring the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Shortly after our return I experienced bloating in my abdominal area.  A scan was conducted and by the time I got home after the scan the telephone was ringing. The doctor wanted me to return to the hospital immediately.  Why is it that they never call you to return with good news?


It was late in the afternoon of June 29th. The doctor very kindly and directly said “Mrs. Gilman, you have ovarian cancer………………….” By July 15th I was a patient Maine Medical Partners Women’s Health Division of Gynecology and Oncology in Scarborough. I started chemotherapy on July 19th. My world came to a dramatic turn. We had planned to move out of state to be nearer family during our retirement. We did an abrupt U-turn and opted to stay and fight here. I was unable to fully comprehend that I did indeed have cancer. I was in a surreal state during the first stage of my treatment.  As I progressed in my treatment I began to come to grips with the gravity of my illness. I learned that this dread disease is very much an individual disease.


I withstood weekly chemo sessions with minimal side effects. With the help of family and friends I have been able to maintain a positive attitude, and, despite a bad case of “chemo brain”, retain my sense of humor. Two surgeries and months of chemo later, I am looking forward to a new round of chemo. One does not “cure” my cancer. I’m confident that I’ll be able to manage my disease and continue to be a loving wife, mother and grandmother. I spent most of February in the Maine Medical Center for treatment of a bowel obstruction.  Surgeons removed a cancerous tumor and about 8” of my intestine.  I am well on the road to a full recovery from surgery and am having lots of fun eating whatever I want to gain back some of the weight I lost.  Ben and Mike flew east and were most welcome visitors and supporters during my hospital stay. We had a family meeting with my lead gynecological oncologist who affirmed that my treatment program is now at a point that is “transportable.”


The Sun Valley crew put their local experience and contacts to work and found the Mountain States Tumor Institute in Twin Falls, ID, about 75 miles from Hailey.  I ran it by my local medical team and was pleased to learn that indeed, they knew some of the doctors in Idaho. We had anticipated waiting 3 – 4 months to move. The doctor told us that a key goal of his practice is to allow his patients to spend as much time with their families as possible and that he would go sooner rather than later.


We are now on a mission to relocate to Sun Valley in time to have my next dose of chemotherapy administered there.  Lots of plans to be made and details to be worked out. Nick is here to help and lend moral and physical support. We finalized a three-month deal on a VRBO in Hailey and have it available to us March 20th. Arrangements are being made for travel, cars, dog, dumpster, movers, insurance, doctors and so forth.  We are fortunate to have been semi-packed for the past 18 months, have great local support and the best support imaginable in Sun Valley.


This move has been a goal for years. Not exactly under these circumstances, but we have really learned that life is what happens to plans!  Please wish us well in our move and me for successful treatment of my illness.  Above all, thank you all for your love, support and prayers.

They are most welcome and mean more than I can express. Please stay in touch!


Ellen and Steve did make their journey to Idaho, arriving there on March 23rd.  On March 29th I received a message from Steve saying that Ellen was in the hospital in Boise with a second bowel obstruction.  A fast growing and inoperable tumor was wreaking havoc with her internal systems. Ellen fought this until the end early on April 1 when she lost her heroic 9-month battle. A beautiful and devoted wife, mother, grandmother and friend will be sadly missed.  I was not surprised to learn that she passed with dignity and grace.


In Ellen’s honor and memory, I will proudly wear her name on my shirt and with her spirit in my heart as I participate in the Tri-For-A-Cure on Sunday, June 23, 2017.  The last time I saw Ellen she thanked me for honoring her and said that she wished she could be at the event.  Knowing the distance between Idaho and Maine we both knew that would be impossible. She said “Penny, I will be with you in my heart” as she clutched my hand.


Ellen, this one is for you!! Thank you for your inspiration!! You are a true hero and I have no doubt I will feel your presence with me that day.  Please help me in my efforts to raise money to help provide funding that will hopefully one day find a cure for this horrible disease.



Thank you very much.





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