Joni, patient attendant, at the QMG Cancer Institute

Joni Cook greets patients at QMG Cancer Institute with a warmth that comes from a deep place of understanding.  She’s not just a friendly face; she’s a fellow cancer survivor who can relate to their struggles on a personal level.

In 2022, Joni’s life took an unexpected turn when she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  It started subtly that spring with difficulty breathing, worsening throughout the summer.

“Just walking across the street, I had to stop and catch my breath,” she recalled. “It got to the point where I couldn’t breathe well at all.”

Shortly after diagnosis, Joni began chemotherapy and radiation therapy, completing her treatment in December 2022.  Now, with regular check-ups, she hopes to extend the interval between appointments to every six months.

During her treatment, Joni transitioned to a new role at QMG Cancer Institute. This move wasn’t just a change of scenery; it was an opportunity to use her experience to support other patients.

“I know it’s not a place people want to be,” Cook said. “But I try to make people feel as good as possible.  A smile can go a long way.  When I’m not here, patients miss that.”

Cook’s personal journey gives her a unique perspective on her role. “Those who haven’t had cancer can’t fully understand what patients are going through,” she shared. “That’s why I try to calm their nerves.  And it’s rewarding to hear them say, ‘You make me feel so much better.’ Getting to know these patients has been so special to me.”

Her own outlook on life has been profoundly impacted by her experience. It’s instilled in her a newfound appreciation for each day and a determination to live life to the fullest.

“Cancer gave me a bucket list,” Cook said. “Before my diagnosis, I was more of a homebody. But now, I’m venturing out and exploring new places. Recently, I even took a train to Chicago for the first time! I’ve been to Utah a couple of times as well. This experience has made me realize that I don’t want to let life pass by me any longer.”

Join us on Sunday, June 2 from 1 – 3 p.m. at the QMG Cancer Institute, 3301 Broadway St., for our National Survivors Day event — Hope Grows Here.