Articles | Cycle of Life | Meri's Operation | Joanne's Cancer | Love Story |

Published in the April 29, 1981 issue of the Three Village Herald.

12-year-old fights cancer
It is determination and faith that are guiding a local 12-year-old girl and her family in her battle to overcome cancer.

Since the February 5 operation that claimed part of her right leg, Joanne Jones, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, across from Ward Melville High School, has been enduring brutalizing chemotherapy treatments in the nation's number one cancer research hospital, determined to survive her extremely rare form of cancer and possibly help others.

"There's a special reason why God chose me; sometime I may be able to help other people," said Joanne.

It was a small lump which appeared on the side of her foot last summer, which a Setauket doctor in January had first diagnosed as an innocent cystic tumor, that turned out to be synovial cancer of the tendon sheath around a joint.

It was at the urging of tumor specialist Gerald Rosen that Joanne immediately underwent an operation that removed not only the cancerous foot, but her right leg midway to the knee.

"We had to go along with whatever had to be done; this is where our faith comes in," said Joanne's father, Joseph Jones, who owns and operates The Jones Boys appliance sales and service in Stony Brook.

Since then, Joanne has begun a nine-month stint of chemotherapy at the Manhattan-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. The toxics that are injected into her body kill not only cancer cells, but other active cells, including white blood cells and those in her hair follicles. The treatments leave her nauseous, dizzy, with sores, weight and hair loss, and a susceptibility to infection.

"She goes into the hospital well and comes out sick," said her father. In addition, she goes to Mather Hospital every other day for blood tests to monitor her vital white blood count.

But it is with an upbeat determination that Joanne fights to attain what Rosen said is her 90 percent chance for survival and to continue a normal life.

"I plan to do everything I did before," said the seventh grader in the Comsewoque School District. Joanne is already making use of her artificial leg -- walking, bicycle riding and even attempting a cartwheel. She plans to return to gymnastics, skiing and roller skating.

"Joanne being able to handle it so well has made it easier for the rest of the family," said her mother, Anne.

The 12-year-old is receiving wide support and encouragement from her family, friends and school, where she returned for the first time Monday. Her 17-year-old brother, Eugene, has chosen chemotherapy for a high school research paper.

But the family has gome a long way since it first learned of Joanne's condition. Her mother recalled her first reaction. "I was mad at God and everybody," she said.

Her father expressed similar emotions. "As a parent, you go through many different feelings, anger, frustration, and helplessness," he said.

Now, however, Joanne and her family see her condition as a lesson for other people. "Everytime your children have a little bump or bruise you think it's too expensive to take them to the doctor, you say 'Let's watch it and see what happens,' but if they have a lump or something, you should have it checked out immediately," said Joanne's mother.

For her father, Joanne's condition has changed the way he views life, a change he says, which could help everyone. "It screws your head on straight," he said. "Money, social standing, material security don't mean that much anymore. The important thing is to love one another," he said.

Her father, the brother of county supreme court judge John J. J. Jones, continues to remain optimistic, despite the thousands of dollars that Joanne's illness will cost and still uncertain insurance coverage. "It will come from somewhere. God provides," he said.

In the meantime, the family is continuing to encourage Joanne, convinced that she will be able to meet her next goal -- to dance at her cousin's wedding on May 17, ten days before her thirteenth birthday.

"She's going to dance at that wedding," said her mother. "She's going to make it."

Joanne is determined. "In the beginning it was shocking," she said. "Now you say, 'it's almost over.'"

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.Joanne's picture from the Herald.
Photo on the front page of the Herald




Joanne, dancing with her father, Joe Jr.,
at her cousin's wedding in May 1981,
after the operation to remove her leg