Breast cancer survivor: Stay active and trust your instincts

Jan. 24, 2018

Joanne GernonJoanne Gernon spent her career as a nurse helping others. Since her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis in 2014, she hasn’t stopped.

She volunteers every chance she gets — with the Livestrong program for cancer survivors at the Carson MetroCenter YMCA, Lollypop Farm, American Cancer Society, Gilda’s Club, Foodlink, her church, Nazareth Elementary, the Color Run, “whatever little thing comes my way,” she says.

She stays active, pays close attention to her health and works hard to keep her cancer from taking over her life. With her oncologist Alex Solky and Lisa Acosta, PA, at Wilmot Cancer Institute at Highland Hospital, Joanne has been through numerous rounds of chemo, trying new treatments every time her cancer stops responding to the last.

“My cancer treatment and journey have been so crazy, but life can be crazy too,” she says. 

She’s grateful for her Wilmot team, especially Michelle Kettinger, LMSW, who has helped her navigate difficult decisions and overwhelming experiences.

“You learn not be shy when you’re being treated for cancer,” Joanne says. “Trust your instincts. Ask questions and make sure your needs are met.”

Support is crucial, she says, whether it’s from family, friends or others who have cancer.

“We cheer each other on,” she says. “It’s important to have that support system. You can’t do it on your own.”

As complicated as living with cancer can be, Joanne says she’s hopeful, too.

“I’m excited about the future and the frontier because more women and men are living with cancer,” she says. “New treatments are coming all the time.”