Alert
Close

Tell your senator to end the gridlock and renew the Older Americans Act now. Learn more

HIGHLIGHTS

Open
AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy

AARP REALPAD

The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More

AARP VETERAN MEMBERSHIP

Military and Veterans Discount

CONTESTS AND SWEEPS

AARP’s Picture Your Retirement Sweepstakes

Enter the $50K Picture Your Retirement Sweepstakes. Ends 8/31/15. No purchase necessary. Enter for Official Rules.

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

Fighting Cancer Against All Odds

With faith and a positive attitude, Edie Sundby continues to outsmart stage IV cancer

Sitting on an examining table, Edie took a breath and asked, "How much?" Remembering the moment today, she touches her belly. "He indicated that there was a lot. He said, 'Multiple places.' I knew immediately it had metastasized."

There were as many as 50 fast-growing tumors — in her gallbladder, where doctors believe that the cancer originated, and on her liver, her colon, her bowel and her lungs. What stood out among the details the physician offered that day was that one of the tumors appeared to be seven inches long. "Whoa," was all Edie could say. The doctor told her she probably had just three months to live. "He said the disease was incurable, with limited treatment options that would only delay the inevitable," Edie recalls. "He advised me to think about palliative care and to start planning for hospice."

Stunned, Edie stumbled to the parking lot and called Dale from her car phone. The intercontinental connection was scratchy. "Dale, I just saw the doctor, and I'm full of tumors," she blurted out. "It's cancer. I need you to come home."

For a few seconds the line was silent. Then Dale said, "OK, I'm on my way." Immediately he set out on a two-day journey to get back to Edie. Waiting for him to arrive, she at first felt sheer terror. In an attempt to gain some control, she started writing about her life. Raised Southern Baptist, she also turned to prayer. "At the end of those two full days," she says, "I reached closure. If my life was going to terminate in three months, I was very accepting of that. Of course, it's a philosophical acceptance, but I felt great peace."

Edie may have been accepting of the specter of death, but she wasn't going to stop living. She'd always been a fighter.

She grew up in small-town Cyril, Oklahoma, the daughter of struggling farmers. There were 12 children in all (more hands to pick their cotton crop), and Edie was second to youngest. In a family so large, there's no such thing as hovering parents, and she learned to take care of herself. She worked hard to up her odds of moving beyond Oklahoma, though she remains close with a circle of hometown friends, who, upon learning of her cancer battle, established a prayer group for her. "We call ourselves prayer warriors," says Ronald Janousek, a retired teacher. "Edie and her family didn't always have the best, but she never had a bad word to say about anyone. And she's one strong lady."

The summer after high school, Edie sold Bibles door-to-door to help pay for college. The typical sales rep averaged three sales per day, but Edie routinely topped that, netting a then-whopping $10,000 before heading to the University of Oklahoma. Upon graduation, she landed a job at IBM, where, in a 1975 training session, she met Dale. "We competed the whole session to be number one in the class," Edie remembers. "Dale edged me out! We were both ambitious risk takers, but we laughed a lot, too." Five months later, they married and moved in together in Moline, Illinois.

Edie was better at sales than anyone Dale had ever seen. "It's because she's mindful," Dale observes. "She doesn't waste a day." Equally charismatic, Dale ended up heading IBM's Palo Alto office just as the Silicon Valley was taking off, and Edie accepted an executive position at AT&T in San Francisco. But in 1984 they decided to leave their corporate jobs and venture out as software entrepreneurs, settling in San Diego, where, in 1988, they had their twin girls. They experienced huge business successes, as well as some failures, and never lost their drive. In 2007, with Whitney in college and Stefanie taking a year off, they were optimistic about their next project: developing a financial-services platform using software developers in Ukraine.

Then cancer came calling.

Next: Fighting the terminal cancer prognosis. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Video Extra

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Advertisement

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members can save 20% on hearing aids with the AARP® Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points

Advertisement