Reclaiming Every Day with Gina and Joanie
Every wished you could pour a cup of coffee or a big glass of Diet Coke and sit down with someone special and get to know them better. That's how I feel about many authors after I read their books. I just want to get inside their head for a moment and find our more, ask questions, learn from their experiences.
Well this year here at Reclaiming Everyday, we are going to meet some of the Christian authors I know. My hope is that you will listen to their stories and grow from what they have experienced.
Today we are sitting down with my friend, Joanie. Her smile is contagious and her hope is eternal. Settle in, I think you're going to love her.
Reclaiming Everyday with Gina and Joanie
(Gina) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
(Joanie) I’m the oldest of seven and survived growing up in a house with one bathroom. As a child, I enjoyed reading, music, and crafts. Even though I lacked athletic ability, I spent my summer days playing tennis, or more accurately, chasing the ball. In the evening, my friends and I rode bikes throughout the neighborhood until the streetlights shimmered. My diary was my first writing project which provided a challenge—where to hide the key. I am a retired RN, having worked almost 35 years in various fields including dialysis, oncology, and critical care.
(Gina) When did you decide you wanted to write your story?
(Joanie) When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I sought out other survivors hoping they could validate my experience. But I found none. There were no Gilda’s clubs or support groups. I felt alone. That’s when I decided to write the book I would have liked as a resource when I was going through chemotherapy.
(Gina) In your book, In her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, you share your own fight with cancer. Briefly describe your battle and how it prompted the writing of your book.
(Joanie) As a former oncology nurse, I should have been equipped with the knowledge I needed to cope with cancer. But I found I had more questions than answers. Cancer is hard. For me, the treatment was worse. My information packet had not prepared me for crushing chest pain or toe pain that throbbed and robbed my sleep. Chemotherapy siphoned my strength. I stood at the microwave and heated water for tea, slumped over a nearby chair. My leg muscles quivered as I counted the seconds until I heard the familiar ping. Strands of hair tangled my comb and clumped the shower drain until only wisps peppered the bald patches on my head. As my hairdresser shaved my head, pinpricks shot through my scalp. Tears rolled down my cheeks. No one had prepared me for the physical pain of losing my hair. Chemotherapy short-circuited my brain. I grappled for names of long-time acquaintances, but my mind offered me a blank slate. Years of accumulated knowledge escaped my grasp. I couldn’t focus to read my Bible or pray.
I wondered, did other women experience these side effects? I didn’t know, but I would have liked to have been able to share my experience with other women going through the same treatment.
Gina) How is: In her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, different from other self-help books?
(Joanie) In Her Shoes, is a collection of stories, each one highlighting a different aspect of the cancer journeys of 12 women with various types of cancer. In these pages, you will find humor, helpful tips, uplifting scriptures, and encouraging prayers.
(Gina) What words of advice would you give another cancer patient?
(Joanie) I had vowed never to go through chemotherapy after I witnessed the devastating effects on my patients. But I sensed the Lord whisper, “Go through the process.” He knew the right path for me and would bring me through. He knows the right path for each one of us and promises to never leave us.
(Gina) As a former nurse, what encouragement can you provide for those weary from day to day work in this pandemic season?
(Joanie) I remember being a new nurse working on-call after putting in a full shift. I was exhausted and had no idea when I would be able to go home. I remember the words of a co-worker that got me through some long nights on call, “You will go home. It may be late. It may be very late. But you will go home. You will survive.” This pandemic will not last forever. Hang onto God. Ask him for the strength you need in this season.
(Gina) Fulltime caregiving can be overwhelming. Do you have any tips for care-giver's personal care when they are devoted to taking care of others all the time?
(Joanie) One of the most difficult challenges for caregivers is taking time for themselves because it seems so selfish. I experienced a season of caregiving when I felt exhausted, pressed between stress at work and caregiving at home. I snatched a few moments of rest and peace when I ran errands. I would sit on a bench at a nearby park to collect my thoughts. A respite from the constant demands pulling at the threads of my sanity. Yet stepping back and doing something that brings us joy or rest recharges us and helps to prevent burnout.
(Gina) Is there a particular passage of scripture that helped you during your cancer fight?
(Joanie) “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (Psalm 57:1 ESV). I could not pray or read the scriptures. All I could do was cry out for mercy until the demolition in my body from chemotherapy passed.
(Gina) What do you enjoy doing during your spare time?
(Joanie) When not writing, I enjoy knitting, swimming, reading, playing the autoharp, and spending time with friends. I’m involved in several groups—Friends of the Pen (a writing critique group), a book club, and The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up (my ovarian cancer social group).
(Gina) What are you working on next?
(Joanie) I’m working on a book of spiritual lessons I learned based on the life of my friend and mentor. I also post blogs on my website, some posts are cancer related, other posts on the journey of life.
A huge thanks to Joanie for sharing her story. You can find her book on Amazon and you can connect with Joanie on her website https://joanieshawhan.com . And yes, she's as delightful as her smile!
If you or someone you know is struggling with cancer, Joanie's story will be one of encouragement to them and to those who are helping with their care. Our prayers are with those who are battling this disease. May you know the same comfort that Joanie knows, the comfort of Jesus.