It has been a long, roundabout road for Jenny Callahan since leaving the area. Callahan graduated from Madison High School, she moved to Mankato, MN that next fall for college, then headed to Shakopee, MN to work at Valleyfair for the summer, then it was Las Vegas, NV, back to Sioux Falls, and then to Monticello and Mound, MN.
Something was tugging at her though, about six years ago, to move back closer to home and family.
“I was in a job with the railroad and I was working in a place where everyone kept waiting to retire to be happy. It was really depressing and, I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to be happy now, I didn’t want to wait,” Callahan told the Moody County Enterprise. She laughed as she continued to add, “So I put in my two weeks and Randy said, ‘if you’re moving, I’m going with you.’ And then I never went back. The next day I called work and told them I wasn’t ever coming back!”
The timing...well, it honestly couldn’t have been any better.
Shortly after settling back into a life here in South Dakota, Jenny was diagnosed with an incredibly rare form of cancer — cancer of the appendix. Fighting it, she says, has been incredibly challenging.
There is not a day anymore that she takes for granted.
She has sought out new treatments, specialists across the country that have any experience treating appendix cancer, and tried to just enjoy doing anything and everything she wants.
“I feel like my life has been a chess game for the past four or five years. Every piece that I move, fortunately, has been the right move but it’s been like a roller coaster,” she said. “There are people diagnosed with my same stage that make it only a few months or years. If you can make it five years, doctors consider it a huge success. So in the last couple of months even, I’ve run out to the Hills for 24 hours even, hiked the Badlands with my cousins, been to a bunch of parks and things since we’ve had such a nice fall. I don’t bring yesterday into tomorrow and I’ve gotten rid of the ‘let’s do it later’ mentality. We do it now. You want to do it, you go do it, you don’t hold back or second guess.”
Callahan has roots in Moody County. Her mother, Charla Blandenier grew up in Flandreau and graduated from high school here. Blandenier married Jim Callahan from Colman. Jim is the oldest of 12 in the family. Charla is the daughter of Flandreau residents Charles and Rachael Blandenier. “Rachael was even the mayor of Egan!” Callahan exclaims.
The 41-year-old now has a family of her own, her husband, Randy, is from Minnesota and the couple’s three dogs, Slainte, which is an Irish toast for good health, Lilo, and Ava. Randy, by the way, is a gentle soul and will help anyone at any time, said Callahan. “He is a true gentleman. The duo has been together about eight years, but...back to that ‘do it now’ mentality. It was only earlier this spring that the couple, on a whim, decided to head to Alaska to visit Jenny’s young cousin, who is also battling cancer, and also get married.
“It was spontaneous. She didn’t know we were coming or that we were going to get married when we got there...so we went to this park. Her brother chose this place because it’s not very far to walk from the car and she’s not very strong. He started playing “Going to the Chapel” and she didn’t know what was happening,” Callahan said, with a giggle. “I told her, ‘We’re getting married right now and asked if she’d be our maid of honor’. That’s how we did it.”
Her best advice to anyone — live in the moment. Do things, she says, especially the things that light up your soul. And do them as often as possible. Eliminate stress. Travel, “Even if it is around the block. Make the most of every 1440 minutes in a day!”
Travel she and Randy do, most often with no set plans. Their hope is to get to New Zealand soon.