Almost four months after finding out she had lung cancer, Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce received the news on Monday that she is cancer-free.
“I had the power of belief behind me, and I just kept telling myself all along that all this pain and misery would be worth it in the end. So I got the answer I was expecting,” Mounce said.
Throughout her treatment, the 50-year-old continually surprised doctors and nurses. She only lost 10 pounds and still has about half of her hair. And her upbeat attitude kept her focused on getting well.
“One nurse said, ‘You’re too excited to be here. What’s wrong with you?” Mounce said while laughing.
Mounce took a break from her work at Dougherty CPAs Inc., but has remained active on the council. Within three weeks of having surgery, she was listening by phone to a shirtsleeve session. During chemotherapy, she still attended meetings.
“I quite frankly love serving as a council member, and if there is one aspect of pleasure in my life, that’s it. It’s such an honor to do this job,” she said.
But there have been challenges. Mounce had surgery to remove the middle section of her right lung and then received four sessions of chemotherapy during a 12-week period.
The chemotherapy caused fatigue. At times she felt like her legs weighed 300 pounds, and it was hard to walk around her home.
She also had severe digestive problems that were nothing like anything she had ever experienced.
She described it as the scene from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” when Violet Beauregarde is turned into a blueberry.
“During the five days after chemo, you blow up like the girl in ‘Willy Wonka,’ and on day five, I’m sure it is similar to the blueberry being squashed and everything comes out,” Mounce said.
Her last round of chemo was on Aug. 5, so she is still feeling fatigued but hopes to regain her energy and get her digestive system back on track in the next month.
She did a CT scan last Thursday that showed the cancer was gone. She will continue doing scans every three months for the next two years, and then she will eventually only have to go in for yearly scans if she remains healthy.
“It was like a thousand pounds got lifted off my shoulders, just the worry. Every time they schedule me for a CT scan in the future, I will get worried, but what can you do? I’m grateful they have the technology to screen you for this type of thing,” Mounce said.
During her treatment, Mounce said she often talked to others who were also receiving chemotherapy.
“It was very uplifting, surprisingly enough, because everybody had a positive outlook, and of course all the nurses were very kind and considerate. It’s a room full of people sharing their challenges and their success,” she said.
She occasionally was overwhelmed by how much support she received, whether it was reading one of the more than 100 cards that arrived at her house or running into supporters while receiving treatment.
During Mounce’s first trip to chemo, a young woman was sitting in one of the chairs with her mom, and “apparently her mom is a big JoAnne Mounce fan.”
The three sat down and swapped stories for about an hour.
“It was very nice that people felt comfortable to reach out to me, and I enjoyed that part very much,” she said.
She also learned more about herself during the past four months. She discovered new strengths and weaknesses, and found out who her true friends are.
At times, Mounce felt sorry for herself during chemo, but she said it reinforced the importance of having a positive attitude.
“I knew I was always a strong individual, and no matter whatever I’m faced with, I’ll do it. If I can sit on the dais and debate my fellow council members and be under the scrutiny of citizens I’m responsible for and responsible to and overcome some of the challenges I have gone through, then I can rise to any occasion,” Mounce said.
Moving forward, she plans to start an exercise program to become healthier.
“When talking with several people, they have said, ‘Let’s be clear that obesity is a cause of cancer.’ It’s time for me to take a look at the way I have been doing business my whole life. Sometimes it takes drastic events to get you to these realizations,” she said.
She also plans to reduce her stress level at work, and is happy to be working with her co-workers again.
Tuesday was Mounce’s second day back, and she resumed her usual role of organizing and participating in Dougherty CPAs weekly team meetings.
“I’m just going to take a little bit easier approach to life and not stress out as much,” she said.
Mounce had some suggestions for people who have recently been diagnosed or who are still undergoing treatment.
“As shocking as the diagnosis of cancer can be, keep a great attitude because attitude is everything. Surround yourself with family and give it all you got,” she said.