Joanne and Robert Gernon

Joanne and Robert Gernon

Breast CancerKidney Cancer

Rochester, NY


Joanne Gernon, a registered nurse, was diagnosed with breast cancer with metastasis to her lymph nodes in 2014. Her initial concern began during her regular self-check examinations that led to both mammograms and biopsies that resulted in the diagnosis. With her background in nursing, Joanne was able to use her knowledge and resources to react quickly to changes, and  find the best options in care for her own needs. During her 10 months of treatment, Joanne faced obstacles, such as developing thrush, that led to further complications. Her husband, Robert, is also a cancer survivor. Being diagnosed with kidney cancer was a surprise, as he never got sick and was always up doing things. Fortunately, both Joanne and Robert are in remission and enjoy traveling.

Joanne’s father had leukemia and passed away at the age of 72 years old. She described him as being a “young 72” and definitely not feeble. Her father faced complications due to his age and an existing age limit at that time, as he was never a candidate for a bone marrow transplant that could have possibly saved his life.

Knowledge is an Advantage

I said, “I only have one body.” If they’re going to mess around with it, somebody’s got to be good to do it because I’m not going to do it twice. You want to get the best and that’s how I felt. If somebody is going to chop something off on me, I got to have the best I can find. So I had two names. And I asked a nurse practitioner, who was a friend of mine, to ask her boss about the doctors’ names and what did she feel about these. I don’t know about this community. It’s very, very intertwined with a lot of medical people because of the U of R (University of Rochester). You get to know a lot of stuff, maybe you shouldn’t, but to me, it’s an advantage.

Help Those Who Can’t Afford Treatment

We really need to help those who can’t afford cancer treatment because cancer is very expensive and it can financially drain you if you’re not prepared for it. Which we weren’t prepared, but thank goodness I had wonderful medical coverage. Because that’s what got me through. So I was very fortunate, too, that I was able to have sick time that I had on my own that I could rely upon to be out. And I almost had enough to cover me from June of last year until March of this year.

There is Life After Cancer

Now we are travelers. And of course, I had been kept from traveling because of being treated. But we’re going to start traveling again. We’ve been on 37 cruises. All over the world. The only national park we haven’t seen yet is Yosemite in California. The whole world is great. We’ve been to Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Norway, Germany, Romania, Holland, Sweden, and Russia. It’s great! One of my philosophies in life was always “a half of loaf of bread is better than none at all!” Do I worry about cancer? Yes and no. If my PET scan comes back and shows cancer, I think I’ll be a lot stronger the second time around than I was the first. I think I can handle it better emotionally.

Evolving Health Care

My father was a 72 year old man that had leukemia who would never go on remission. The problem was that they had an age limit on which they could do bone marrow transplants. So my father was never a candidate for a bone marrow transplant that maybe would’ve saved his life. But now, it’s ageless, which is about time! Unfortunately, the cancer complications got him after a while. And with my case, I read in a lot of cancer journals, once you start chemo, they don’t cut anything. You get the full-blown stuff. In my case, I’m glad that somebody went and helped advocate me, because I wanted to make sure the cancer is not coming back. So therefore, with that in mind, I’m glad that I had people in research knowing “If we can’t do it this way, we can do it that way.”