The Norman Transcript


October 26, 2012

Learning how to survive cancer

NORMAN — When JoAnn Belknap was first diagnosed with breast cancer, her mind immediately thought the worst. But through her friends, her faith and her determination, JoAnn Belknap beat breast cancer not only once, but twice.

“It means a lot that I have survived, and I ask God, ‘Why me? Why have you allowed me to continue to live?’” Belknap said. “I was reading Psalm 23 and I just decided that he wasn’t through with the path he had decided to give me.”

Belknap’s first discovery of breast cancer was in 2002 while her and her physician husband, Hal, were in New Zealand getting ready to go on JoAnn’s dream hike. Once the Belknap’s returned to Norman, their lives took a dramatic turn.

“It usually takes about three weeks to get an appointment, and it was time for my mammogram. So I called, and I think all of this is just a God thing, because the lady said ‘You know, I have a cancellation at 2:15 tomorrow. Can you come?’” Belknap said.

And from there, Belknap’s life sped up. She had a mammogram that led to a biopsy, which later led to a mastectomy.

“I was so frightened because my mom had died of breast cancer. For me, the word “cancer” meant death, not survival. I asked Dr. Sherri Durica, ‘Am I going to die?’ And she said, ‘Oh my, dear. You’re so brave in asking that so early.’ I don’t know what it was about it, but that just kind of put me at ease,” Belknap said.

After her first mastectomy, Belknap underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy and more than 30 radiation treatments.

Belknap, who said she had no pain during her procedures, thought the worst was behind her after the first mastectomy. Then, in 2009, she found another lump. This time, Belknap was on her way to Uganda to open up the Dr. B Health Clinic.

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