Thanksgiving Kindness for Big Momma

Big Momma told me to write this. And what Big Momma says, goes.

Big Momma has a real name, it’s Barb Wohlwend. I think she got her nickname from her daughter, Amanda Lea, who is a Fargo-Moorhead radio personality on BIG 98.7. Much like her momma, Amanda’s personality is larger than life. If you walk into a room and don’t find fake eyelashes and cheetah print, you have not found Amanda … or Big Momma.

If you’ve met them, you know it. Their hearts are so huge, they sort of draw you into a hug when you’re still two arm-lengths away.

Big Momma was diagnosed with Stage 3c ovarian cancer on March 19, 2012. Since that day, the mother-daughter duo has fought like hell, pardon my french.

But here’s the thing, sometimes even the most advanced medical treatments can’t communicate with the human body well enough to stop the cancer. So last December, with Amanda by her side, Big Momma decided to stop fighting and start living large. They went to New York City and Los Angeles and spent long, lazy summer days on a pontoon on Middle Leaf Lake.

Amanda has given her friends and fans a true gift throughout this whole ordeal. She openly shares the mixture of joy and grief that comes when supporting a loved one in battle. Watching Amanda feel so deeply, so publicly, seems to give the rest of us permission to do it, too, privately.

After a summer of nearly forgetting about cancer, Big Momma had to go back into the hospital. That was just before Thanksgiving. She had a blood transfusion and then surgery on the tumors surrounding her colon. There are more tumors in her lungs, but nothing can be done.

On the way into surgery, Big Momma could be heard giving the Sanford nurses helpful suggestions, such as, “They should really have spas at hospitals. Can’t I get a massage before surgery?” and then finished with, “Who’s ready to get this party started?”

Yep, that sounds like Big Momma. But that is not the story Big Momma wanted me to tell. Big Momma wanted me to tell you about the food.

Dan Hurder is a restaurateur and friend of Big Momma’s from Fargo. He owns Monte’s Downtown, The Boiler Room, Barbacoa and Otter Supper Club in Ottertail, Minn.

When he found out Amanda and her family would be spending Thanksgiving at the hospital, the food connoisseur knew he had to help.

It just so happens that Hurder was hosting the North Dakota State University men’s basketball team for a Thanksgiving buffet at Monte’s Downtown. The team had spent the morning volunteering at the New Life Center emergency shelter, and while Hurder knew the Bison would come in hungry, he anticipated leftovers and knew where he could put them to good use.

Amanda expected food for four. She got food for 20, plenty to share with all the nurses who gave up their holiday to help others.

Hurder brought turkey, stuffing, salad, sweet potatoes, rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and two bottles of wine. He left with empty hands and a heart full of gratitude. His own parents flew in for the Thanksgiving holiday, and Hurder says it made him more aware than ever of the blessing.

Amanda says she was also filled with intense gratitude. “Other people offered to bring us food, but I didn’t want to take them away from their own families. I truly didn’t think it was a big deal, or that I would miss it, but by the middle of the day, seeing all the Facebook posts of food and family, Dan’s kindness truly meant the world to our family. Even though Big Momma couldn’t enjoy it, she was overjoyed that we got to eat and had extra for the nurses who were working with us on her floor.”

All Big Momma could say was, “Dan Hurder, you have the biggest heart, you should be in the paper!” What Big Momma says, goes.

12265765_1037312052975077_2114585956212244221_oPlease continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

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