#91 When The Saints Go Marching In.


When I was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma when I was fifteen my Oncologist wanted me to meet another one of his patients. Jon Fladhammer was a year older than I was and lived about an hour away from me but we managed to set up a date to go to a concert together. He picked me up in an old Ford truck that his parents had just bought for him and he was so proud of. We had a great time back-stage at the concert and met Lionel Richie and Sheila E, they gave us both a ton of stuff that they had signed. I didn’t understand why we were being treated like royalty until Jon told me on the way home that he had called a radio station in town and told them that we were both teen cancer patients, and we had both had our right legs cut off( I still had my leg but my amputation surgery was scheduled). He loved playing the cancer card to get things for free. He always said that we deserved it and I don’t blame him, because we did get a lot of things that we otherwise wouldn’t have. About three miles away from the stadium another guy who was also coming from the concert, ran a stop sign and T-boned Jon’s truck…throwing us both around the cab. Jon was so angry that his truck had been hit that he jumped out and pulled the guy out of his wrecked car to sake a swing at him. He never did get to hit the guy because a bunch of other people saw what had happened and were falling over themselves to try to make sure that we were both ok. I had my wheelchair in the bed of the truck and Jon had his crutches back there too. He was wearing his prosthesis and had to take it off because we were thrown so hard, you can’t even imagine what that accident scene looked like. Our Oncologist was called into the er in the middle of the night because we were both there with injuries, although they weren’t serious. This was only day one in my relationship with Jon. We spent almost every day together, and the hospital arranged it so that we had our chemo and other treatments on the same days. We would either be in my hospital room or his, we tried to get them to  just let us share a room but it was against policy. Since we were sick at the same time, we were also well and able to go out at the same time, and that went on for over a year. He was my best friend but I didn’t consider him my boyfriend. Our parents trusted us to spend the night at each other’s house and no matter who’s house we were at everyone just left us alone. We probably could have gotten away with whatever we wanted to do, but mostly we were just sitting together watching movies. We talked a lot though, and for being as young as he was Jon was so grown up, and smart. He saw every opportunity and took it, no matter what. There were far too many funny and interesting times with Jon to write about here, but lately I’ve been thinking about him again. Jon never did tell me that his cancer had come back in his shoulder and in his lungs. I didn’t find out until I saw an article(the third in a series)in the news paper about him written by EJ Montini. I guess Jon thought that I wouldn’t be able to handle the fact that he was dyeing so he just left it alone.  We both had invitations to go white water rafting and skiing but I didn’t want to go because I didn’t think I could get around on one leg. Jon went to Alaska to go rafting but he came back early because he couldn’t stand the pain anymore. Jon was my example of how I could still do things while only having one leg. I guess looking back now that might have been why the doctor wanted me to meet him. I don’t think that they expected us to become so close though. We did make it difficult for the nurses because we kept doing things like throwing M&Ms into the ducts at the hospital to see if they would go into the other rooms. With chocolate running down the walls and us laughing the nurses would yell at us while they crunched through the room on M&Ms. Jon was my hero then, and always will be. He died on September 21st 1987, just months before his 18th birthday. His mother Dana called my mother and asked her to bring me to see him a few days before he died. All he wanted to talk about was the fact that I hadn’t been wearing my leg. I didn’t know until years later that the pain in my stump that caused me not to wear my leg was from damage done during my amputation. I guess he was trying to look out for me one last time. During the interviews with EJ Montini he said that when he died he thought he should have an all cowboy kazoo band playing “As The Saints Go Marching In” so that while they were looking for the saint Jon could slip right by the pearly gates into Heaven. I don’t think that he needed to sneak into Heaven…I’m SURE that they were waiting for him with open arms.


9 thoughts on “#91 When The Saints Go Marching In.

  1. Cindy, this made me laugh and cry.
    I know a lady who has three girls and her youngest daughter died of cancer at 18. She runs a card shop and when I pop in and see her she always tells me something funny about the daughter that died.
    The daughter went to the same hospital as me and this young girl raised over £200,000 over two years for cancer research.

    The mums says her daughter was a real character and was very naughty ( just like you two were)

    • ali, We did have a lot of fun and usually it involved both of us getting yelled at but we never were punished for anything so I figured that it was ok. Now I know it was because our families thought that we were both going to die young and they wanted us to have a great time. I’m so sorry for your friend because there is nothing worse than the loss of a child. I’m glad that she has so many happy memories of her daughter. Thank you for listening to her stories…I bet it makes her day.

    • Judith, Thank you but I have to give the credit for this one to Jon. He was the single most amazing person I’ve know to this day. Even when he knew he had months left to live he signed up for college and bought all his books knowing that he’d never get to one class. He never let anything get in his way.

  2. I knew Jon (in fact, I found this by googling his name). My 14 year old son is named after him. He used to sit behind me in choir in grade school and try to untie my pigtails without me noticing. He always thought it was SO funny when he could pull it off. I miss him SO much. Thanks for giving me yet another set of vivid images to share with my son about who he is named after.

    • Dana,
      I’m so happy to hear from you and would very much like to catch it with you soon. My breast cancer won’t let me do much, but I would love to talk, it’s been way too long. I don’t know how to get your #. Ive never been good with technology. I’ll try ti find it today, I can’t wait to talk!
      All my love to you,

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