Inside Joey Feek's Brave Battle with Cancer: 'We've Got Right Now – and That's Enough,' Says Her Husband
"I took the calendar off the wall and threw in the trash can," wrote her husband Rory Feek
As Joey Feek surrounds herself with family in her final days, the singer’s husband Rory Feek has been preparing himself for losing his wife and mother to their children.
“I can’t process any of it,” Rory wrote of her battle with cervical cancer on his blog This Life I Live on Oct. 23. “I can’t.”
More than two weeks later on Monday, Rory shared the heartbreaking revelation that Joey, 40, is under hospice care, writing, “Joey is at peace with where she is and where she’s going. So am I.”
The couple, who made a name for themselves as country singing duo Joey + Rory, have shared many of their ups and downs on his blog in recent weeks. For Joey, her last chapter isn’t about death, but rather love – especially when it comes to Indiana, their 20-month-old daughter, and Heidi and Hopie, his girls from a previous relationship.
“When we got married in 2002, Joey not only took on my name, she also took on my two teenage daughters, Heidi and Hopie, as her own,” Rory wrote in a post titled “Saying Goodbye” on Nov. 3. “At the alter, in front of God, the preacher and the whole congregation, Joey and I exchanged rings. After I put a ring on her finger, she slipped one on mine. Then she called the girls up and gently slid a ring on their fingers too … a symbol of her commitment to them, like her commitment to me.”
But 13 years later, the rings have taken on an entirely different meaning.
“She told them how much she loved them, and how proud she is of them. And how proud she is to be their mother,” Rory wrote of Joey’s heart to heart with the oldest kids. “And then she talked with them about the one thing that she didn’t think she would ever have to talk with them about: Leaving them.”
He added, “From the porch we all smiled because we knew in that instant, that no matter what happens, Joey will always be with us. She’ll be in our little Indiana’s smile… and in our hearts forever.”
By that point, Joey’s bittersweet family moments out of bed had become increasingly rare as cancer took hold of her body.
“Most of Joey’s immune system is gone now and she’s thin and frail,” Rory penned in an entry titled “For Better or Worse” on Oct. 31. “Where she once jumped out of bed before the sun rose to rush out to her garden … she now quietly sleeps away most of the days. I lie beside her at night and I hold her hand and listen to her breathe. And I pray.”
Joey’s hair is also gone.
“Day by day, the effects of all the chemo Joey had received the last couple months was causing her hair to get thinner and thinner, so on Tuesday she asked me if I would do the honors,” Rory wrote on Nov. 6. “Our older daughters were still here, so they sat at the foot of Joey’s chair in the middle of the living room and held her hands as I took the clippers that she usually cuts my hair with, and followed through with her wishes.”
As Rory explains, he wasn’t convinced that she should shave her brunette mane. He figured, if the chemotherapy didn’t work, maybe her hair wouldn’t fall out after all.
“I was hoping she could continue to look in the mirror and see herself, and not have to see a cancer-patient staring back at her,” he wrote. “But she was insistent. Joey is nothing if not courageous.”
In a touching display of solidarity, Joey’s three sisters – Jessie, Julie and Jody – plus her dad Jack and niece Alyssa also shaved their hair off.
“And all of a sudden, Joey didn’t look different than the people around her anymore,” Rory wrote. “And a big beautiful smile came across her face and everyone else’s too.”
The Feeks have given cancer a hard fight, but they began the transition to acceptance when a CT scan in October revealed that her tumors grew back and the “cancer was aggressively spreading” after her last surgery in July and five weeks of treatment.
“So we did what you do when the medicine isn’t working, and the doctors are at a loss … and when the ‘statistics’ say you can do more chemo, but it will only buy you a little time…,” wrote Rory. “We came home. Not to die. But to live.”
As Rory notes, they weren’t going to let a countdown rule: “The doctors gave us an estimate of how much time they believe that Joey has, and we both looked at the calendar that hangs by our kitchen door, then I took the calendar off the wall and threw in the trash can.”
He continued, “So we don’t have forever. We’ve got right now. And that’s enough.”