Joni Cook

When you walk through the first-floor doors of Quincy Medical Group’s (QMG) 1025 Maine St. building, the first person to welcome you is Joni Cook, a Patient Attendant at the clinic. With every “hello,” or “have a good day” she hopes to make an impact.

“I always try to stay positive. I don’t know why patients are here. Some will stop and tell me, but otherwise, I don’t know,” she said. “I have a big heart for people. For whatever reason they’re here, I hope I make their day a little better.”

What those patients may not know is just how much they brighten her day as well. Those interactions are meaningful to her, especially now as she battles lung cancer.

Joni first knew something wasn’t quite right this past spring when she started having difficulty breathing. By the summer, she had gotten worse.

“Just walking across the street, I had to stop and catch my breath. I just had gotten to the point where I couldn’t breathe very well when I was walking,” she said.

She called her primary care provider at QMG, Dr. Stephanie Reyburn, who scheduled some tests to figure out what was going on. The results revealed something concerning with one of her lungs. She was quickly referred to QMG Pulmonologist Dr. Elie Chbeir, who delivered the news she hoped not to receive — she had cancer.

“I did a biopsy with Dr. Chbeir and he found that I had small-cell lung cancer,” she shared. “My first question was, ‘What stage is it?’ He said this one doesn’t have stages. This one’s curable. That was the ‘C’ word I wanted to hear and that’s what stood out the most. I heard ‘curable’ over cancer. That made my day.”

Her treatment began shortly after diagnosis. After meeting with Dr. M. Amjad Ali, medical oncologist, and Dr. Michael Fallon, radiation oncologist, with the QMG Cancer Institute, it was determined that she would receive both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She requested QMG Surgeon Dr. Christian Zwick to place her port for chemo.

Since August, she has received three rounds of radiation, 12 rounds of chemo, followed by another 25 rounds of radiation. After a brief break, she now has begun another course of radiation treatments.

Her positive outlook has seen her through, and her spirits have been bolstered by the care of her QMG family.

“I could not ask for better treatment from anybody, anywhere. I told one of my doctor friends that I’ve never been treated like a queen in my life until now! I said everybody, everywhere, every department, they make me feel like I’m number one. Seriously,” she said. “Without a health history and not needing healthcare for years, I had no clue just how nice patients are treated, if that makes sense.”

“He goes, ‘Joni, we do that with every patient,” she said with a laugh.

As she continues her journey, she remained focused on doing what it takes to fight her disease while doing the job she loves. It’s her job, she says. That helps her through.

“I told the nurses at the Cancer Institute, I might have cancer, but I’m not sick. I have cancer and I’m doing what I can to get rid of it, but that doesn’t mean I’m sick. I don’t feel bad enough to stay home. I love my job. If I can do both, cure this and keep doing what I love, then I’m going to,” Cook said.

She said that the care team of everyone and the doctors, Dr. Ali, Dr. Chbeir, Dr. Fallon, Dr. Reyburn, and Dr. Zwick are an important part of her story now.

Through tears, she shared, “I can’t say one is better than the other. They’re all amazing. I want the world to know how awesome they are here at QMG. It’s been a long haul, but I’m very, very fortunate to have them.”