Associate’s Breast Cancer Journey Provides Comfort, Guidance to Others

by: Micheal Polarchy

A picture of what’s to come is the vision Jo instills in women who are unsure about life after a breast cancer diagnosis. She knows, because she has walked that road.

“I just felt like I wanted to pay it forward,” said Jo, who’s been an associate for 30 years at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center.

Paying it forward is what she’s done for more than a year in pre-op rooms, talking with women prior to their breast cancer-related surgery.

“It’s a long journey. You have to keep going forward and be patient with yourself,” Jo said.

The need to express her words of healing began in 2017, as she dealt with her own battle with breast cancer. Jo was diagnosed that March and, in May 2017, had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstructive surgery.

She attributes finding her cancer to Mother Nature. A stick poked Jo in her breast while working outside, which she believes led to the discovery of the cancer that was there. At the onset of her cancer battle, Jo kept the diagnosis to herself.

“I was very private,” she said. “I didn’t want anybody to know, I didn’t want to share it with anybody.”

She eventually opened up to a friend who serves as director of a local breast cancer support group, Driven by Heart.

“They provided the resources I needed to help me through my journey,” Jo said.

Jo knew she had to help others searching for guidance and comfort – the same way she was. Patients are receptive to hearing from someone who’s been down that road, serving as living proof there can be hope and happiness after diagnosis.

“Sharing our experiences to help others in life-challenging situations is important,” Jo said. “We should all do a little bit of that.”