For Joanna Slone, “life had been unfolding in a lovely way,” until, suddenly, it wasn’t.
Hers was a “blessed life,” made richer by travel, and the opportunity to co-chair bridge tournaments to support Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in memory of a friend who passed away due to breast cancer.
In the winter of 2014, during a trip to California, cancer became a more personal experience when, as Joanna explains, “I felt like something, or someone had invaded my body.” Ultimately, a test uncovered the cause: lung cancer. “Even now,” Joanna says, “It’s like having ice-water thrown in my face.”
Joanna was referred to Dr. Frances Shepherd at The Princess Margaret. “We asked our doctor-friends if we should stay or go abroad for treatment, and they all said that you have one of the world’s best cancer centres at your doorstep.” Regarding her treatment, Joanna explains, “I’d get up and go to radiation one day, report to chemotherapy another day. It was like having a job again.” Joanna was supported by a community of friends, family, and a network of medical professionals, encouraging, and empowering her with the perfect balance of options and involvement. “Everyone knew when to stay and when to go.” The Princess Margaret team was “always accessible” but allowed her to decide “if and when I needed more support.”
Months later, a radiation oncologist informed Joanna that her cancer had metastasized. That doctor estimated she might live “another year and a half.” But, he continued, “Dr. Shepherd always has something up her sleeve.” She did indeed. Dr. Shepherd got Joanna approved for a new immunotherapy protocol that was available in the U.S., without ever having to leave The Princess Margaret. Like every aspect of her cancer experience, this treatment was customized to her specific needs. Six and a half years later, an optimistic Joanna continues to live her life under the watchful care of Dr. Shepherd.
In describing the importance of support, Joanna observes, “Cancer is a minefield. Because of the support that people give to The Princess Margaret, great strides have been made for all patients. I’m living proof of that.”