Joana was born March 18, 1985 in the Philippines where she lived until she found her soul mate in 2009, Thomas (Tom).
In late 2010, Tom and Joana and Tom were married on 05/08/2010 then returned to the states 09/2010. Shortly after they took their vows, they had carefully planned to have a child, praying for a son, to be born on Tom’s birthday, September 1st. Joana and Tom were very close on their planning, Baby Thomas was born September 05, 2011.
Tom and Joana spoke in depth about “purpose” when Joana was shortly diagnosed with Stage 4 Cervical Cancer after Baby Thomas was born. Joana and Tom firmly believed their relationship and their journey from the Philippines to the states were all in God’s plans so Joana could seek the medical attention that she received that gave her, her husband and Baby Thomas more time together and a story to share with those that are fortunate enough to hear it.
Tom shares, “If we didn’t get married and come here Joana may have died without our paths crossing. Because we did, I was able to take care of her and we had our son, Baby Thomas.” Joana firmly believed even through her battle that she considers it a blessing and would always look at things positively, not negatively.
After post-delivery of Baby Thomas, Joana had noticed swollen lymph nodes in her neck. In 12/2011, they believed it was skin cancer and then head and neck lymphoma. It wasn’t until 01/2012 that the cancer was accurately diagnosed as cervical cancer, unfortunately at Stage 4.
Joana was an extremely strong, unselfish, and beautiful woman. Joana battled her cancer with aggressive treatments and remained very strong for her family, friends, and most of all, for Baby Thomas. In September 2011, Tom and Joana traveled to the Philippines to celebrate their son’s birthday. Though her back was aching and she was fighting the pain, Tom shared that no one knew about her pain, “she was smiling the entire time.” Joana lived for those around her and cared about what she could do for others and how anything would impact them.
Joana began hospice and palliaitive care services in 10/2012. Her goals when she began hospice services was to survive and to become a volunteer for cancer patients to uplift their spirits; to share with the world her faith in God, even though the battle that she was struggling with; and to send a strong message of her own.
Joana wanted to remind women not to neglect their pap smears and that if Cancer is diagnosed sooner, there would be a stronger chance that it could be curable. Her message to us was also “not to take the simple things in life for granted because those simple things can be life changing.”
Joana was fortunate enough to receive hospice services while she was still seeking aggressive treatments with her oncologist. Her pain and symptoms were effectively managed to help her through her treatments and to have quality of life. Joana continued the treatments until the treatments were not changing her chances of survival. When Joana came onto hospice services , she wasn’t comfortable with the “H” word (hospice) and struggled with the term hospice in that she had the ultimate question, “Am I dying?” Joana only wanted the truth and she wanted a “time table” so she could be prepared because she didn’t really get any details of how long that she may have. Having the information that she needed, she was able to make the plans that were most important to her.
During the time that Joana was receiving hospice services, she was able to travel to Texas from Arizona. Joana was able to spend Thanksgiving 2012 with some family members and most importantly, renewed her vows to her husband and had her last rites.
Joana had an early birthday party in January where she was able to say goodbye to her family in the Philippines through the webcam. After her family told her it was ok and that they would see her again, “Joana after the party thanked her family, was satisfied, and was ready to go.”
I spent time with Joana and Tom, Friday, January 11, 2013 when everything was shared with me what was of utmost importance to Joana.Tom shared with me that Joana woke up on Thursday, 01/10/2013 and shared with him that “she saw Jesus and Jesus touched her face.” She shared with Tom that she would make a home in heaven for all of them and that “she loved him so much.” Joana passed on Monday, January 14, 2013 at 8:45AM.
Tom shared that at the end of Joana’s life, “she didn’t know the feeling of dying and (after discussions with hospice staff) her knowing what to expect made her more comfortable.” Tom shared:
Living every day is like an extension of her (Joana). It has been a life blessing that we came this far. Whatever happens to you in life, good or bad, there is always a good purpose that God gave you to experience. Don’t blame God, seek the message God has given to you. Joana didn’t ever lose her faith in God and never questioned God on what has happened. Baby Thomas, growing up, will see everything about Joana, pictures, videos, and all of these stories.
Joana will be remembered by everyone for her strength, her passion, love, and compassion for others, and the story that she wanted so much to tell to continue to reach as many people as she could.
When I met with Tom, a promise was made to he and Joana that I would tell Joana’s story and continue to tell the story and reach as many people as humanly possible. Joana, being so lively and positive, requested to have her memorial on her birthday rather than on the day that she passed.
This will be a day (and month of March) to remember her, her battle with cancer, and most importantly to share her story and message to as many people as we can possibly reach. Joana will be remembered for her courage, her liveliness, and her strength.
Joana, you will be always remembered and your story has been told and will be continued to be remembered and shared.
All donations will go to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) toward educational materials and promotions in an effort to prevent cancer. That was Joana's wish. Please donate now to help others and to honor Joana's desire to pass the information on after her death.
You may also log on to the NCCC local AZ Chapter