Three-time cancer survivor shares her story

2017-06-14 06:01
Joanne Harlow.    Photo:SUPPLIED

Joanne Harlow. Photo:SUPPLIED

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ELEVEN years ago, Port Elizabeth resident Joanne Harlow received news that changed her life forever.

At the age of 42, Harlow, a wife and a mother of an 11- and 13-year-old, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Inflammatory Ductal Carcinoma (breast cancer).

She had chemotherapy before having her left breast removed in July 2006 and after the mastectomy and radiation, she was told she had a life expectancy of three years.

“I have never smoked, drank one glass of wine per month on average and was as fit as a fiddle – what a shocker,” she said.

Harlow volunteered for a new drug called Taxotere and qualified for Herceptin. In 2007, she was free of cancer which is when she joined Reach for Recovery as their secretary and fundraising assistant.

“I mentioned to my oncologist that my maternal grandmother had passed away of ovarian cancer, so not taking any chances, my ovaries were removed and I dived into menopause at age 43,” she said.

Towards the end of 2007, she received her volunteer visiting training with Reach for Recovery.

Then, in April 2008, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and doctors gave her six months to live.

Harlow said, “I was bombarded with radiotherapy to my head and that prevented me from being very active within Reach for Recovery for a few months.”

In 2009, she became the treasurer for Reach for Recovery in Port Elizabeth, but devastation struck again and Harlow was diagnosed with cancer in a gland this time and had to go back on chemotherapy for four months.

By the end of 2009, she was yet again cleared of cancer and continued with her position as treasurer of Reach for Recovery. In 2015, she was elected Chairperson of Reach for Recovery Port Elizabeth.

In the last eight years, Harlow has given awareness talks, attended wellness days at factories, spoken of her personal journey and visited reoccurrence patients all over Port Elizabeth.

She has written a book called Jo’s Song about her journey. The 300 books that were printed sold out within six months and she is currently working on getting the money together to reprint the book locally.

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