*This beautiful soul transcended our physical plane in February 2022. We wish to share her amazing words and thoughts, as she navigated unimaginable circumstances.*
My name is JoAnna Stephens. I am a storyteller, an artist, a futurist, and I have brain cancer.
My biggest fear has always been being perceived as crazy. Living in a world I am the only one in agreement with. Being completely isolated in my own brain with no one to share my experiences with. It’s funny how your biggest fear is generally the thing you can never run away from. Fear must be faced. Either you get in the ring with it and duel it out, or you don’t.
For the better part of this year I’ve gone down a journey that has been less about my brain cancer and more about facing my fears. What I’ve learned so far, is Love begins where Fear ends.
October 16th, 2017 was the day I found out I had a brain tumor. I found out when I got a text message from a woman I didn’t know who claimed she was my fairy godmother. She was insistent that I go to the hospital that night, that I had the chance to turn my life around if I went immediately. I googled her number to see if anything came up and in fact it did. Her picture popped up and I remembered her from 6 months prior when I ended up in her shop on a girl’s trip. I was with my friend Amanda and she wanted to stop in. The owner wasn’t around, and Amanda’s phone had died, so she used mine to call and leave her a message. That was the closest I got to meeting my fairy godmother at the time.
I’ve been prone to migraines the better part of my 20’s. I always considered it a hereditary thing seeing as my dad gets them. I knew one was about to come on when my vision went dark in my left eye and lightning streaks would blind me. Then I’d go lay down until it went away. Yes, I was blacking out whenever I stood up, but I also considered that bad circulation, you know, because I’m tall. Occasionally I would lose segments of time and feel very confused for a while but that’s because I day dream. I’m creative, you see. My sensitivities to foods were becoming more apparent, I could tell you exactly what would give me a headache instantly just by looking at it. That was just my taste buds changing though. My sense of smell was incredible. Some smells instantly would give me a migraine, other times I’d be overwhelmed by smells that came out of nowhere reminding me of something from my childhood, like I was constantly chasing down a memory that I could never quite catch.
But the truth was I felt sick that night. More than sick, I felt toxic. I couldn’t drink enough water to flush this one out. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Maybe I had meningitis and that’s what she meant by the text, I’ve heard that’s rough. I drove around late at night looking for an open Urgent Care that took my insurance, but no such luck. My only option at that point was the emergency room.
So, I picked up a willing friend of mine to come with me at 11:00 at night to the ER to prove this woman wrong and put my mind at ease. The longer we sat there waiting to be checked in, real emergency cases started to come in. I started to doubt my legitimacy of being there, so I spent my time trying to come up with a convincing reason to be in the ER with just a headache, you know, besides the whole receiving an anonymous tip off from my fairy godmother to get my brain checked out. I kept coming back to the meningitis thing, that sounded more convincing than the truth.