Clanton woman fights cancer with coworkers’ help

Published 5:10 pm Friday, January 20, 2012

Donna Joiner was approaching her six-month mark as an accounts payable clerk at the Chilton County Commission when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in mid-November last year.

She was blindsided by the news and concerned about how much work she would have to miss for surgeries, treatments and doctors’ appointments.

“It was a devastating shock to me,” Joiner said. “I’m a healthy person. I’ve never had any health issues ever.”

But at one of the lowest points in Joiner’s life, her county coworkers showed her a shade of generosity unmatched in many other places.

“I think just about everybody donated something,” Joiner said.

County employees in different departments, many of whom she had never met, gave their sick days to Joiner since she had so few of her own as a newer employee.

“I didn’t have enough built up to take off for all these surgeries and treatments,” she said. “One employee at the road department donated 40 hours of his sick time.”

Before she knew it, Joiner had received 300 hours of sick leave, along with numerous gas gift cards to ease her traveling expenses to and from doctors’ offices.

“I was so shocked,” she said. “Everybody was so kind-hearted. I couldn’t have asked for a better county to work for.”

In the fall of 2011, Joiner noticed a lump in one of her breasts and showed it to her doctor, but neither believed the mass was cancerous at first.

The worst news came on Nov. 17, however, when a biopsy revealed that the lump Joiner had found was malignant, as was a different lump her doctor discovered.

On Dec. 5, 2011, she underwent a double mastectomy to remove the lumps and began a rigorous series of chemotherapy treatments and reconstructive surgeries.

“I had three surgeries in less than two months,” she said. “I only stayed out (of work) two weeks. I wanted to come back as soon as I could because I didn’t want to sit there and dwell on my problems. I wanted to get back to a normal lifestyle as soon as possible.”

Joiner said ever since her first surgery, coworkers have offered to help her with tasks around the office, but most of the time she does everything herself.

“She’s just bound and determined to do the work,” County Administrator Vanessa Hendrick said. “She’s been a trooper to not let it affect her daily routine. She’s just a go-getter.”

Two-time breast cancer survivor and American Cancer Society Hero of Hope Linda Hand stopped by Joiner’s office recently to extend her support.

Last week, the commission held a hat and scarf party for Joiner, and churches throughout Chilton County have placed her on their prayer lists.

“I just hope that when this is all over with, I can return the favor,” she said. “Maybe one day, I can pay somebody else back and help them the way they’ve helped me.”