I was very saddened to find out when I arrived at work today that a coworker of mine had died. Joan was 43 and had stage IV inflammatory breast cancer. I am saddest for her little girls Gigi and Josie. They are without their mother today. I never realized what breast cancer can do to a woman until I met Joanie. See I had heard alot about Joanie, but had never met her before Dec 2006. I knew that there was a woman in need of leave because she had breast cancer. I knew that I had heard the gasps that she had breast cancer. I finally got to meet her at the District's christmas party last year. She sat between my boss and I. She was like yeah I am that girl. I was curious about what she had to say. She had young girls that she obviously loved and adored. Joanie was so funny and had the biggest smile. I never once heard her say why me. She was a fighter. By the time I had met Joanie, she had had breast cancer for well over a year and a half. Its effects were ravaging. Gone was the pretty young woman with the I got ya smile that is on her caring bridge site now (see http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/joanmorrissey ). Cancer had taken that away. When I met Joanie she had been ravaged by the cancer. Her arms and hands were so swollen and blistered from the treatments. She told me how cancer was and patiently answered all of my questions (much what I do with the PE mommies). She was so open. Yet she had such humor about her. Many people at the CDC and at work donated leave to her. Enough that when she got worse, she was able to take the summer off to spend with her family. Joanie went through hell before she died. But she always always had a smile on her even on her worse days. She was swollen, in writhing pain, cancer had distorted her body. But cancer never ever distorted her inner beauty inside. At that same Christmas party, Joanie said that she had a caring bridge site. I immediately signed up for it and got notifications by email. I followed her progress. I thought she had more time. Just a few weeks ago she was doing things. Then she was admitted to the hospital. She was released 2 weeks ago. All of a sudden she just declined. Joanie got to spend the summer visiting the family lake house. She was given enough leave to take off 4 months! She got to see her neice graduate from high school in Alaska. She lived more of a life in 43 years than many live in a lifetime.
Because of Joanie, as much as I HATE annual exams, I will never miss one again. When it is time for a mammogram, I will be first in line to get the boobs squished. I won't miss a pap smear either (as much as I DREAD those). When I get those things done, I will think of Joanie. So say a few prayers for her girls and husband tonight. They loved her sooooo much and are devestated by her passing. My girls would be devestated and at 10 and 6, it is a really young age to lose your mom. Last night the world lost a beautiful gentle kind soul. Even though cancer took her outer beauty away, it will never take her inner beauty. RIP Joanie, you will be sadly missed.