Going through cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic could have been a solitary experience for this packaging engineer. But the constant presence of the products that save and sustain lives let her know she had the entire Baxter team in her corner.
Our employees are driven by a common purpose to deliver on Baxter's Mission of Saving and Sustaining Lives. Recurrently, the lives of our employees intersect with that mission on a personal level. We'll be sharing these employee stories as part of an ongoing "Mission Moments" series.
Here is Joanne’s story.
It was early 2021 and Joanne went into her annual mammogram with no pain and no concerns. She came out with a head full of unknowns.
"I still remember hearing, 'I think you might have cancer and I strongly recommend you have a biopsy,'" Joanne recalls.
With a family history of breast cancer, she already had a short list of breast surgeons and quickly arranged an appointment. After talking with her breast surgeon, a lumpectomy and radiation appeared to be the treatment route. Her biopsy revealed that those would have been "nicer" options compared to what she was about to endure.
Joanne was diagnosed with lobular carcinoma, which appears small, but has a tentacle-like form, making it rather large. "I learned that oncologists call it the 'Sneaky Ninja' of breast cancer because you don’t see it, don't feel it and don’t know you have it until it's kind of bad," she said. "I had an MRI and learned that it had spread to the lymph nodes and surgery went from a lumpectomy to a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and 5 to 10 years of hormone therapy."
While the diagnosis was jarring, Joanne said she was blessed to have a team of doctors who looked closely at the abnormality at the start. Her other big takeaway that she continues to preach is the importance of never skipping your annual mammogram."
"People are tempted to say, 'Oh, my exams are always good, what’s one year?'" she said. "It would have been worse for me – a lot worse."
Joanne had her cancer surgery in April 2021 and began chemo the following month. Going through all of this during the COVID-19 pandemic made it all the more lonesome, but she still found comfort and strength in almost every room in which she received treatment.
Every time I saw the familiar IV pole during a treatment or procedure, there was always a Baxter bag hanging. When you’re there alone and you’re scared and then you see that it’s a Baxter product … You don’t feel so alone because you know you have the Baxter team with you.
Joanne, senior principal packaging engineer
When the senior principal packaging engineer, who works with colleagues at Baxter's plants around the world, joined the company seven years ago, she said she would routinely tell her friends and family how proud she was to work for Baxter. Her pride only grew during her treatment thanks to the support she received from her manager and team.
"I felt comfortable telling him what I was going through," she said. "On my chemo days, I told him I’m not going to be a rock star, and he was great. That’s a huge thing in recovery – not having to stress or worry. I had my family and friends, but Baxter was right up there with the core things that got me through it."
Joanne finished her chemo one year ago this month and is currently in the hormone therapy part of her care journey to minimize the return of cancer.