A Survivor

As people who know me can attest, family means everything to me. And family related by marriage is still in family in my books. So it is with great sadness that I share a story about a family member who is currently suffering and needs support, thoughts, rays of white light, prayers, rainbows and strength. Even from strangers.

My sister-in-law Katie has been a part of my family since 1995 when she started dating my brother back at Amherst College (where they both went with Ken).  Now married to my brother with three kids, Katie is my inspiration and model for everything in life:  parenting, emotional stability, and balance.  And her family helped teach her this. Katie has a sister, Joanna, and a brother, Alex. And although not technically related, they are a part of our lives and I love them dearly. And so I consider Joanna a sister-in-law even though she is my brother’s sister-in-law. Not only is she family, but a friend, a mother to her year old son, Myles, and a beautiful and kind person. So much heart, love, and soul.

KTJojo

This picture is from 2006 -- at Katie and my brother's wedding. Katie is the one on the left and Joanna is on the right. Both beautiful ladies inside and out.

June 29th, 2011 — a week and a half before her wedding to her fiancé, Toby, Joanna was experiencing tremendous fatigue. Her baby boy was six months old, her 34th birthday was a week and a half away, and her wedding was literally around the corner. Thinking her fatigue was possibly Lyme disease, she went to have her blood checked out. It wasn’t Lyme Disease.  Much worse, doctors told her she had acute myeloid leukemia. Hours later, she reported to Tufts Hospital to start her first round of chemotherapy, with no choice but to leave behind her baby boy and fiancé, and postpone their wedding.

Family photo

A family photo of Joanna, Toby, and Myles

November, 2011- Joanna continues an incredible comeback. She successfully fights through all of the demons and devils inside her body and emerges stronger than before. This random awful act of God made her appreciate everything and allowed her to fully take advantage of her life. She followed the path that was unfortunately handed to her, and came out a survivor. She BEAT the leukemia that had attacked her body and mind.

Joanna and Myles

Joanna and Myles this past Fall.

January 2012- After experiencing such an amazing recovery and showing so much strength, Joanna went in for routine bloodwork. Doctors delivered the worst possible news: her leukemia was back. And back with a vengeance.

What a nightmare. So now, Joanna is in a hospital ward for a new round of chemo. She will spend the next 4-5 weeks confined in her room, and away from her boy, her family, the outdoors. After the chemo, she will have to undergo a full body radiation series and a bone marrow transplant.

She will make it. I know she will. But the treatment that lies ahead is a huge undertaking physically and emotionally. And for this, we ache. We can’t imagine the pain and fears she is going through. No one can.

Myles

I mean, REALLY, how FLIPPING cute is this little boy? So blonde, so smiley, so cute, so loveable. Even from just a photograph!

And now? I, along with her other friends and family worry and fret and pray and hope that this nightmare goes away and Joanna returns healthy and strong. I can’t sleep much at night because her story brings me so much sadness. Her baby boy? Just learning to say “mama”. As all mothers know, their children are their life, priority, reason for living. And now Joanna is in the hospital — indefinitely — away from her family and focused on surviving.

I know Joanna would appreciate your prayers and thoughts.  Please check out more information and her message board here (you will need to create a profile):  http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/joannarob/

With love and gratitude,

Anika Yael Natori, aka, The Josie Girl

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