Joanna Burgess Reflects On Her Past

Joanna Burgess never gave up, even when times were difficult.

Joanna Burgess never gave up, even when times were difficult.

Editor’s Note: This is the story of Joanna Burgess’s amazing and inspirational life.  Joanna originally submitted the following story to be published in a major national magazine, but the magazine elected not to publish it, however their loss is our gain.  Joanna Burgess is a nurse, a cancer survivor, a wife and the 2011 Great Comebacks® South Region Award Recipient and you can find out more about Joanna Burgess by clicking here. Part 1 of a 5 part series – originally published on the Courage to Shine website.

As I stand at the podium, looking out over an audience of my nursing colleagues and people who have survived life changing illnesses, a memory from long ago comes to mind.  In my memory I feel peaceful, surrounded by a darkness that is full of flecks of sparkling light. I have a sense that I am floating. I see myself reaching, extending my right arm toward some form of light. I feel content. I am flying toward something unknown, and yet somehow known. I am like an angel, with the tips of my wings resting on water, reaching up to move forward yet seeing ripples in the water below created by the part of me that is not yet ready to take flight. I breathe and I am home. Whether a dream or vision I cannot say, yet I have had this memory since long before I could articulate it.

The memory exists in the periphery of my mind, and if I try to see it too clearly or directly, the image fades and then vanishes. But more important than the vision itself, I have carried throughout my life the memory of the feelings evoked by this vision. The essence of those feelings is in the knowing that I do not walk alone. In the decorated banquet hall in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I again want to reach my arm up to the source of the light, to say thank you. Thank you for getting me to this place.  I want to steadily and calmly express all that I need to say of hope, survival and gratitude. I hold up my forefinger in front of the 200 waiting faces, a sign that I need a minute. I take a deep breath and start to tell my story. It is the reason I have been asked to be here and to be a face of inspiration to others.

As a little girl I loved new shoes. Every Easter I would get a gift, a new pair of fancy shoes to wear with my new Easter dress, hat, and gloves. My father was the Methodist minister of our community and we lived in a parsonage home where my family’s house was connected to the church by a small foot bridge.  I can see myself, six years old, when I received my first pair of red patent leather dress shoes.  I dance, clickity-clack clickity-clack tap tap tap, on the foot bridge – the place where I always initiated my new shoes.  For me, that foot bridge was symbolic of a connection between two worlds – my home where I had the intimacy of family, and my church where I found a community of loving arms always ready to scoop me up. The foot bridge was the perfect place to celebrate my life with dance.  Clickity-clack clickity-clack tap tap tap. I’m smiling and laughing in wonder and awe at the most spectacular shoes I have ever seen.  No one would have guessed watching me in that moment of apparent delight that I also danced with a longing to meet someone who was just like me.

Next: Joanna Burgess’ Shocking Diagnosis

© Copyright 2012 Joanna J. Burgess

Addition links of Joanna Burgess to view:

2011 Great Comebacks® South Region Award Recipient and you can find out more about Great Comebacks® and Joanna Burgess at

Sarcoma Alliance Cares for Children and Young Adults – News Release about Joanna Burgess:

If you would like to contact Joanna Burgess please do so by sending her an e-mail to and we will forward it to Joanna.

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