Jane E. Dorr-Banks

A Better World Running – Fun in the Sun 2019

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By: Sarah Banks 

My mom, Jane Ellen Dorr-Banks, was a girl from Iowa, raised by my Mormor and Papa and the youngest of 5 children. She was an adorable child and she grew up to become a beautiful woman with a bright smile that made her eyes sparkle. She was kind, loving, generous, and touched many lives. To this day, family and friends still tell me about special moments they shared with her a- heartfelt conversation that made a lasting impression. That’s who she was, she’d shine her light on you and the memory never faded.

In 1978, she married my dad, an artist, entrepreneur and a black man, and while she pursued her career as a Registered Nurse, together they brought 2 little mixed girls into the world. Those girls would grow up to love her so much that they’d care for her throughout a 2 ½ year battle with pancreatic cancer and until her very last breath. 

When I reflect on memories from childhood, I think she was a bit quirky. I love remembering how this woman from a small town in Iowa moved to Los Angeles and would still make ridiculous jokes about the price of corn. What did those jokes even mean?! I recall time-after-time watching my Uncle twirl her around a dance floor at the latest family wedding. We’d all giggle and enjoy the show while she kept smiling and twirling! 

Mom was talented, fun and reflective. She sang in a choir, she could play the piano, was a big fan of Elvis and enjoyed musicals. She loved the beach, reading and writing in journals. She knew her politics too. She helped me understand what was happening in the world and was proud beyond measure when her last vote for president was for Obama.

She was selfless throughout her life. She was a caregiver more than once and her compassion was limitless. She believed in God, positive affirmations and always made an effort to better herself. She faced emotional and financial hardships, but she taught my sister and I how to ask for help when we needed it and we’re better for it. She was “the glue”. As a nurse she mended the wounds of patients, she kept our family connected, through caregiving she bonded my sister and I for life and she certainly sealed a place in the heart of everyone who knew her. 

As a mom she was sensitive, loving and thankfully she was patient. When I was a little girl, she gave me heart hugs when I had troubles with asthma, she gave my sister butterfly kisses and rubbed noses with us because she was sweet like that. She played piano in my sister’s school plays and taught her how to bake magnificently. She never taught me how to wear makeup – she just told us we were already beautiful. She volunteered on Thanksgiving, taught us the importance of giving back and gave to more charities than we’ll ever know. She was humble and spent more on her daughters than she’d dare spend on herself. She inspired my love and obsession for all things Christmas (regardless of presents), she drove cross-country to my first day of college, accepted my shortcomings and to the very end she called me her Sarahley.

She was a nurse for 37 years and she was a healer. She would have turned 70 on Friday, September 20, 2019 but she will eternally remain 59 years-young to many of us. My sister and I celebrate her life and mourn her death every day, but I’m making the dedication because maybe if I share a little more about her with the world, she won’t be a memory to some and a statistic to others. Her legacy will leave today’s survivors with hope and inspire them to live their best lives. She lived years longer than predicted, she touched the lives of countless nurses and doctors who will fight even harder and have more compassion for patients today because she made her mark. She even made a tissue donation to a reputable research institution after she passed in 2009. I’d like to believe that that final gift may very well have helped develop a clinical trial available today. She inspired her daughters to advocate for pancreatic cancer patients and I know that if she were here today, she’d be leading the fight in her own way.

I dedicate this race of 52 Races for 52 Faces to Jane Ellen Dorr-Banks and I a wish her happy birthday wherever she may be, watching over us all.

When you make a donation in support of pancreatic cancer research, you’re helping the Hirshberg Foundation and our researchers get closer to a cure. Funding scientific advances and programs for patients and families helps provide resources today and offers hope for a cancer-free world in the future.

Jennifer Mola