Cancer from both sides: Joanie Baldwin Branch

I wanted to feature a post and blog from a friend of mine who is dealing in her own way with terminal cancer. I worked with her in hospice, she as a nurse and I as a chaplain. After she was diagnosed with her own cancer I encouraged her to write about it. This post I thought would be a great introduction. You can catch up with her at

More Cancer Lessons:
I have so many thoughts running through my mind with the underlying theme being; I must start writing all of this down. So, here I go not knowing what will come out of my head or where to start this.
Since I have cancer, I think a lot of the things one thinks of if they know their time here on earth is limited. It was then that I discovered what a blessing this time is. If you know you don’t have all that much time, you tend to, at least mentally, write a ‘to do’ list. On that list are things like funeral arrangements, writing letters to my children, thinking about what songs you want played at the service, etc. The introspection is phenomenal. I am getting to know me at last. Just knowing me has been something that I have often pondered doing. Now it becomes a reality. I find so many things funny. I laugh long and often. Poking fun at yourself & this disease is so freeing. It has been influential with having my family members stop denying that I am going to die. They are learning to accept this diagnosis. There is no ‘elephant in the room’. We make jokes about my baldness and my chemo brain although my grandson, Ryan, says that I was forgetful before I ever had cancer & chemo!
For awhile I became somewhat depressed. I came back to Pittsburgh 2 ½ years ago with nothing of my ‘stuff’ except what I could carry on the plane. It was and is still in Alaska. During this down time, I had decided that I would not have any of my things sent here as I didn’t know how soon I would die. If it was to be soon then it would be a waste of money to ship anything. On the other side of this I have done very well with the chemo treatments. I did not have any problems with my blood. It stayed within normal limits through out. In fact, my oncology team has been amazed at how well I’ve done. As my mood began to lift (with the help of some ‘happy pills’), I became able to plan for some future. I am now aware that no matter how long I have, I will have some of my ‘stuff’ sent to me so I can once again enjoy them for as long as I am here. I have just passed one year since my diagnosis.
There are so many emotional ups & downs when one has been told they have a terminal disease. There are many blessings that come with this. Knowing that I have time, I am able to save my family from having to make important decisions at a time they are less able to do so. I am blessed by having the time to let everyone know what they mean to me before it is too late. I am blessed by being able to live in the moment of every encounter. I am able to see the deeper meaning and purpose of each character trait and how it has served each of us. This alone allows us to love unconditionally. Forgiveness comes easy. Asking for forgiveness is easy when you have such freedom of your soul. Nothing is out of bounds. It all matters and is important as we each search for our meaning in this life. I have learned that it is ok to be dependent on others at times. By doing so, I am letting others have that joyful feeling you get when you help/give to another. So you see this journey is AWESOME!

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