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People often ask me how I do what I do — the basics are simple:

From childhood, I was taught never to say, “I cannot.” To this day, I excel at whatever I’m doing, especially if someone tells me that I can’t do it.

Be true to your core beliefs. Go where God leads you, even if you feel like asking “who me?” God will bring the people into your life that you need, when you need them. In short, He will take care of the details.

Aristotle said, “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, lies your calling.”

Set your goals with this in mind—make sure that what you do will matter. There is no better feeling than helping people by what you do.

Take your challenges and grow through them to make HOPE lemonade. Humor is an absolutely critical element, even when your life is upside down.

Always show others your good side. Being Southern, I believe in greeting people with a smile and “how are you?” Even in the dark days after my husband died, I still greeted people that way. What would have been the benefit of showing them what was truly inside? This same upbringing taught me to treat people the way that you want to be treated.

When you or someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, you’ll need the principles above and more. Advice for cancer patients, caregivers, their families and friends:

Define all of your resources and use them to find the right cancer treatment facility, oncologist and protocol. The best answers are not always the obvious ones. This is your life—invest your knowledge, courage, faith, and focus on the right goals.

Don’t believe everything that you read or hear. If your oncologist tells you that you have six-months to live, then do the following:

  • Live today like there is no tomorrow (you should be doing that anyway).
  • Spend time loving your family and friends (you should be doing that anyway).
  • Make your peace with God and pray often.
  • Use the remainder of your precious time in an effort to make that oncologist eat his words! You are not stamped with an expiration date.

Make a conscious effort to do something good for yourself every day—no matter what your circumstances might be. Many care receivers live longer than their caregivers, because you tend to lose yourself in the process.

It is part of life to lose loved ones. Allow yourself to grieve. Don’t try to hide your emotions with anti-depressants; go to the gym instead. The strength that you need to get through your grief is inside of you.

Finally, no matter where life takes you, never forget to be thankful. Remember the blessings that you have received today and in your lifetime.

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We are born with a path to our own destiny. Mine was to become an author and speaker on surviving cancer, caregiving, brain illness and grief. The preparation for that journey was a culmination of life experiences - good and not-so-good. The biggest trial came from the tragic death of my husband, Gordon, at a young age to metastatic brain cancer. I’m driven by a belief that there is a desperate need for practical information about the challenges that are the powerful focus of my work. Having never written a book before in my life - or even aspired to do so - I published five wonderful books last year. They cover difficult topics, which I attack with dignity, humor and energy. There are many lives to be touched.

This need shines through my books, including The Saving of Gordon: Lifelines to W-I-N Against Cancer, and Connecting through Compassion (for loved ones of brain cancer patients). The recently released "sister" book - Understanding with Compassion - is to help those caring for a dementia, Alzheimer's disease or stroke patient. It was recently reviewed by the executive vice-president of Alzheimer's Foundation of America, and will be featured on their Website.

My personal inspiration comes from the ocean. I seem to have an open connection with God and my creativity while I’m looking out over the waves. It’s through long walks on the beach that all my books came to life. We are only on this earth for a short time. Not one hour or day should be squandered away. Never miss an opportunity to reach out to help others, but temper that with not forgetting to love those closest to you. Give and receive, live and believe…

HOPE - a one-syllable word that will keep you going when all of the other more impressive words have failed to sustain you.


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Joni, I feel like your kindred spirit. I love what you say! I am a stroke survivor and wrote my book Radiant Survivor (, which includes many stories from me and other survivors and caregivers of life altering experiences.

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