SILVER CREEK - Kathy Jones is proof that life is what you make of it.
Jones, a resident of Silver Creek who had never been a smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2002. Doctors didn't waste time; the next month, Jones underwent surgery at Roswell to remove the affected lung.
"They removed my entire right lung," says Jones. "After that, there were a few years of no treatments."
Kathy Jones and husband Steve give their granddaughter Libby a ride on their golf cart.
Thinking that trouble was behind them, things began to look up for the Jones family. Until 2005, that is, when doctors once again found cancer in Jones's remaining lung. With no surgical options left, she started chemotherapy treatments.
News like that would send many people into spirals of depression, but not Jones. She was able to fight on with the love and support of her family, including husband Steve Jones and daughter Kristy (Jones) Bly, an only child. Jones had married Steve, her high school sweetheart, in 1971 after they both graduated from Silver Creek High School. They had Bly in 1980. Jones credits her family and attitude for what keeps her going every day.
"I have always looked at thing positively," says Jones. "I say, 'Everything's going to be good. It's OK,' and my family does the same. I'm never negative. I want to be here for a very long time."
But Jones's positive outlook was once again challenged in 2008. Bly had joined the Army National Guard back in 1998 as a high school senior, signing up at just 17 years old when she needed her parents' permission to do so. After 10 years of service, she was called up for deployment in Afghanistan. Her tour would last from January 2008 until January 2009.
"When she initially signed up (for the military), we were sad," Jones remembers. "Her dad and I, we didn't want her to. But at the same time, we knew it would make her a stronger person, and more responsible. And there are no jobs around here, no options. So we said okay."
Bly's tour led her to Fort Bragg, N.C., where she trained before heading to Camp Phoenix in Afghanistan, outside of Kabul. She was the brigade contracting officer.
"I was also in charge of training female Afghan soldiers at the Ministry of Defense twice a week," Bly says.
In 2008, while Bly was out of the country, Jones was busy dealing with her illness and treatments. She also had the added stress of worrying about and missing her daughter. Jones had to go without her daily conversations with Bly, which had been a source of great comfort. However, Jones was up to the challenge her daughter's tour presented and then some.
"Kristy owned a house at the time (in Perrysburg)," Jones says. "So we had to take care of that while she was gone. Then, while she was (in Afghanistan), she bought another house! So we had three houses to deal with - her two and our own."
What's more, it was actually Jones who did the house-hunting for her daughter.
"I only saw pictures online," Bly explains. "I was in Afghanistan. But the house seemed perfect. It had lots of land, and it was right down the road from (my parents). So I sent my mom."
Jones did the local legwork, and Bly bought the house, located in Sheridan. Bly is happy about how things have worked out; she enjoys being so close to her parents, especially now that her mother is battling Stage 4 lung cancer.
"I definitely don't take things for granted anymore," Bly says of her mother's diagnosis. "We spend more time together now. We're a lot closer."
Jones agrees, saying, "We spend time together as a whole family. Family is very important to us. My mother and mother-in-law live close by, and we all get together. My brother and sister both live in Silver Creek. We do a lot of holidays together. (Steve and I) eat dinner over at Kristy's at least a couple times a week. She likes to cook!"
Jones's optimism was rewarded and reinforced in March of 2012, when Bly gave birth to Libby, Jones's first grandchild.
"I've always wanted to be a grandma," Jones says. "And now I am! And I'm so thankful for the time I get to spend with her, for being able to watch her grow and do things with her. I babysit her twice a week, and I always look forward to our time together."
It's important to note that at 15 months old, Libby does not sit still. She walks, trips, climbs, runs, and demands animal crackers with pleading eyes that make it difficult to say no. But for those two days a week, Grandma's time is Libby's, and Jones makes sure she keeps up.
"We don't just sit around," Jones says. "We play, go shopping, go outside. I make the most of my time with her."
Jones also watches her daughter's house when Bly has to leave town for mandatory training, which happens frequently. Bly is a Sergeant First Class, working with logistics and supplies for the 2-101st Cavalry Squadron, which is based at the Niagara Falls Airforce Base.
"I have to train three weeks a year and one weekend a month," Bly explains, "plus any additional training, which could happen at any time."
Watching Bly's house also means watching Bly's dogs: a happy black lab mix named Mooey, and a 200-pound Mastiff named Sully. They're Bly's babies, too, and Jones accepts them as part of the job and part of the family.
Though Jones doesn't have a lot of down time between her treatments, watching Libby and housesitting, she does make sure to enjoy it. Aside from visiting with her daughter and granddaughter, she likes to read (James Patterson is her favorite), go for motorcycle rides with her husband, take day trips to the casino in Hamburg with her mother and sister, and relax by watching television.
A year and a half ago, Jones was diagnosed with CML leukemia. But as she does with everything else, Jones took the news in stride.
"Even with news like that, I don't let it weigh me down," she says. "And I tell my husband, too. No 'boo-hooing' or any of that. I told them all that from the beginning."
Bly is a constant source of support for her mother, calling her every day to see how she's feeling. With 11 years of experience, Bly has some good advice for people whose family members are battling illness.
"Don't take anything for granted. Enjoy everything, even the little things. Families do fight, but let it go quickly. Don't let it stick," she says.
Jones draws her energy from many sources, and though she remains active, she is also careful and pays attention to how she's feeling.
"I try to have downtime, when I don't have to babysit. I take days to rest when I'm feeling tired; I take naps or watch TV," she says. "And everyone is willing to help me if I get tired, or when I don't feel like cooking or cleaning. My husband knows how to open a can of soup or make a sandwich. Sometimes I call him and say, 'Come over to Kristy's tonight if you want to eat dinner!'"
Life is for the living, and Jones, who celebrated a birthday on July 2, is determined to do just that.
"I do what I feel like doing, and that makes me happy," she says.
Those are words to live by from a woman who knows how precious life is.
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