Joanne exudes kindness and an exuberant joy. Like being around a bright light, she is genuinely one of the sweetest people that I have ever met.
I started working with Joanne seven years ago while volunteering at the Wellness Community (now called the Cancer Support Community) in Walnut Creek. This incredible organization, which supports folks undergoing cancer treatment, attracts incredible people like Joanne. Having survived deadly ovarian cancer, she was giving assistance and providing inspiration to those needing her enthusiasm to give them hope.
"When you deal with people who may be dying, you realize how important life is, even if you never realized it before. I needed to make my life count."
Realizing that she had more living to do, Joanne created a "bucket list". As she began checking things off this list, she was led to Pilates. As a new student at Aspire, we started working slowly and carefully to build her strength, flexibility and balance, as well as rebuilding some of the body mechanics that were causing her pain. A few months into training, she had a revelation. "The strength and confidence that you gain from Pilates changes your life. I gained a lot of strength in my body, but I also found abilities that I never knew that I was capable of."
Although she was never very active before her illness, Joanne has now walked a three-day fundraiser and has walked/run eight half marathons to raise money for cancer organizations. While participating in these races, Joanne notices that most of the women experience a lot of soreness and pain. But Joanne travels with her Pilates props and her pain prevention exercises and marvels, "I can't believe that nothing hurts!"
Joanne serves as an inspiration for other runners during these difficult races, and often encourages exhausted participants younger than she. "People tell me that they can't finish the race. I tell them, 'That's not true. I'm old, I've had cancer and I'm doing this. Just keep going, you can do this.'" Even at her advancing age, she sees no reason to stop walking/ running in these races that bring her joy and help raise funds for worthy causes.
As Joanne's proud Pilates teacher, I sometimes catch myself giggling in admiration while watching her on the Reformer. This 66 year old Pilatista has near perfect form, beautiful grace, and works out with heavier weights than I do. Her new-found fluidity, strength and great body mechanics are a mind-boggling testament to the power of seven years of two weekly Pilates classes.
With Joanne's new lease on life, she also loves making children happy at her fun job at The Disney Store. She passionately knits beautiful scarves and bakes heaps of delicious, sweet treats (of which I benefit from greatly, along with her close relationship to Disney's Princess Tiana). From first-hand experience, people around Joanne feel supported, loved, and showered with sunshine. "Typewriter Hips", or not (an exercise that she'd gladly skip), Aspire lights up when she walks through the front door. She brings a kindness and warmth to every class.
Congratulations, Joanne! To many more half marathons (wearing Micky Mouse ears) while you race for the cure!