A few years ago, Rosie Hisey-Ball was standing in the hallway of the Calgary home she shared with her husband Stan Ball. Dressed in rumpled pyjamas, she caught sight of herself in a hallway mirror. The image she saw was at odds with the fit, honey-brown-haired woman with the ready laugh whom Stan had married just a few years earlier. Instead, she saw a gaunt frame, topped by a head that was bald, save for a few wiry grey hairs. She was just finishing a round of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, a diagnosis she received at age 36. Uncharacteristically, Rosie was crying.
Stan joined her in front of the mirror, encircling her with his arms. “I look like a little old woman, Stan,” she said.
“No honey,” he answered, “you look like a little old man.” Instantly, the tears turned to laughter and Rosie, though still bald and thin, was herself again.
“We promised we’d make each other laugh every day,” Stan says. Rosie died on May 11, 2011, seven years of life post-diagnosis, where the median is just two years for women with metastatic ovarian cancer. “She took the approach that she’d attack the cancer with happiness and a positive attitude,” he says.
Stan, for all his support, felt pretty helpless. In 2009, Rosie had been coping with the disease for four years when Stan heard about the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Not wanting to go it alone, he called a friend, Albert Hulzebos. “I thought it would be just the two of us,” Stan says. Albert called Don Ward, whose wife had died of ovarian cancer. “And he called somebody – it was a daisy chain.” That year Rosie’s Team was born, with 10 cyclists. Now in its third year, Rosie’s Team has 24 riders and has raised a quarter of a million dollars for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
One notable donation came from Calgary Stampeder Henry Burris. He directed a $10,000 donation sponsored by Gibson’s Finest Whiskey to Rosie’s Team after meeting Stan.
Stan Ball is coping with the loss of his soul mate but counts himself lucky for the decade they had together. He’s looking forward to his fourth year as captain of Rosie’s Team in 2012. “I’ve seen firsthand the great work done at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and Alberta Cancer Foundation,” he says, “and it tells me we’re making progress.”