LaGRANGE — Sitting in a salon chair, Joan Howard’s freshly lipsticked smile trembles slightly from a struggle to fight off tears when the conversation about her battling cancer turns to the topic of her family.
Howard was treated to a makeover Thursday morning at Fancii K Beauty Services on Harwell Avenue as part of Bringing the Ages Together LLC’s “Cancer Beat Down” project.
In May, Howard was diagnosed with cervical cancer at West Georgia Health’s Enoch Callaway Cancer Clinic and underwent chemo and radiation treatments. Since that time, Howard has been told she will need heart surgery in order to continue the treatments due to a heart attack and subsequent triple bypass surgery from several years ago.
“It’s not a fun trip,” Howard said about her cancer journey. “I had to go to all kinds of doctors.”
Howard said the most important thing for anyone going through a cancer diagnosis is to not let it get you down.
“When I first found out I had cancer, I did get depressed,” she said. “My niece didn’t understand why I didn’t cry or why I didn’t scream.”
Howard said she did cry and she did scream, but she wanted to do it alone. She didn’t want to burden her loved ones with the cancer, she said. And she didn’t know how to talk about such a formidably fearsome topic with family members she is close to. It was important for Howard to keep up appearances around her family.
At the Enoch Callaway Cancer Clinic, Howard met registered nurse and cancer care navigator Wanda Lowe who was able to provide an ear to confide in and a shoulder to lean on when family members didn’t know what to say. Lowe had also been diagnosed with cancer in the past and was able to provide a personal insight into the battles to come and give comfort when fears arose.
“She helped me through this a lot; she talked to me a lot about it,” Howard said. “She goes all over that hospital helping people. She was the best. I liked her personality. … She talked to me about her situation. Me and her got real close. I really do like her. ”
Howard said the hardest thing about the diagnosis is the effect it has on her relationship with her little niece and nephew, Kylie, age 10, and Kayden, age 7.
“I’ve been with them since they were born,” she said.
Howard said that sometimes she gets worn out and upset, and that has an impact in the relationship she has with her family.
After the makeover, Howard said she was going out to eat with her family.
“I’m going to have a steak, or maybe shrimp,” she said.
The Bringing of the Ages LLC organization provides members of the community with free healthcare and screenings. It will be hosting a free festival 1-5 p.m. Sept. 19. Anyone seeking more information may contact Wanda Jennings at 706-884-0387.
James Morton is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2154.