Dearest Heidi,

I have thought about you ever since the first time Rosemary at Moffitt cancer put us together. About every day in Maine I thanked God for the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation and Jon and Jills desire that the children of a parent with cancer should be able to have times of living outside of the horrors and bondage of that cancer. Your love for people is so apparent.

You, Heidi Cohen are an angel on earth. Your halo is glowing even though you do not see it. God saw fit to open your heart of compassion to our family and literally pull us out of a deep dark pit of despair, all with one phone call to the airline. I know you hear story after story and I have thought about writing to you every day. But I wasn’t sure how I could truly, honestly, exactly, express the deep, genuine gratefulness that Jim, Jillian, Juliet, Luke, Levi and I have for what this wonderful foundation did for our family. My sweet mother, brother and sister welcomed us with open arms to stay with them on their 21 acres in Maine. That is the house I grew up in and the land we all love.

Our oldest son is 21, he is mentally retarded and has lived with us his entire life. He never understood his dad’s illness so his autistic symptoms were extremely agitated which in turn created huge amounts of additional agony. But since May he has been in a local group home and very content. Leaving him was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Knowing he was okay made it ok for me to leave him. I have been his caregiver for 21 years and my husband Jims for ten.)
Each of our four children learned to drive something! What a blast!

My daughter Juliet learned to drive my brothers big truck and my sisters car, Luke got to drive an ATV and a tractor to mow, and little Levi, who is seven, got to drive my sisters temporary scooter as she had 2 knee replacements 4 days apart. So we were able to care for all of her needs and help her through her surgeries and recovery. We spent very little money and had oodles of fun being outside in the fresh air. They swam in the pond ALOT! We swam in a beautiful Maine Lake surrounded by mountains, and ran through the woods(and picked alot of ticks off), we went up a mountain in a dune buggy and lived each day to its fullest. We picked and ate loads of blueberries and had garden fresh vegetables. Here in Florida I don’t think we had good solid meals for at least a year and a half because of the care for Jim and our son Jason and the needs of the other four children. Our precious family “lived” as Jill Albert would have EXACTLY wanted them too: as children of a parent with brain cancer, they were able to get out from under it…I took hundreds of photos and my sister made a wonderful album for Each child. We even took the photo that will be for our Christmas card this year. The past couple of years we have not even been able to do that. We too have been literally held captive by my husbands effects of the grade 3 oliogodendroglioma brain cancer. He has been in his own personal agony for ten years. He has lived a life that is foreign to him and to each of us. He went from being an Executive Chef for Hyatt Hotels, he operated a 21 million dollar budget, 300 employees in the hotel and fifty in the kitchen. He was a supurb chef, teacher and mentor for 28 years, serving fine cuisines from all over the globe to clients..to now-not being able to calculate a tip on a small bill at a restaurant. His days are spent in bed alot and isolating himself. The radiation and chemo were a double edged sword. The children don’t have their dad and I don’t have my husband. We all stopped living when he became ill. We used to take the children to the Tampa Performing Arts to teach them the fine arts of plays and the intense beauty of orchestras and how creative each individual can be with the gift of music or passion for drama that adds so much character to the world we live in. BUT our life stopped too. It had been OVER six years since we have had any fun or gotten out of this house except for school, church and of course too many Dr. appointments. The brain M.R.I last week did not show the cancer growing. It does of couse show in detail the horrid effects of the fried brain cells surrounding the tumor site. Because the tumor crossed the midline they had to perform may treatments of bi-lateral radiation, both sides of his brain were hammered. So here we are… Thankful for this day, this moment, and The Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation and Heidi Cohen who threw us the life raft as the 25 foot waves were about to drown us all. WOW!
We have thanked the Lord many, many times for the Jack and Jill late stage cancer foundation.

PLEASE tell Mr. Jon Albert how sorry we are for the loss of his lovely wife several years ago. Jill hit the bullseye of mother hood when she was thinking of her children in her tragic fight with cancer. Love…it all boils down to God’s saving love that fills us with an overwhelming desire to love our children with a passion that is compared to… nothing else. And to think Mr. Albert had the grace to use his pain and anguish and turn it into a life boat- for the now. Praise God for people that reach out and care. Thank you Jon Albert and your children who undoubtly must follow in the footsteps of the gentle sweet mother who led them to have a heart of compassion. Jon and Jill, you lead by a shining example of courage and perserverance.

Our hearts are Overwhelmed by your gift of time…time that can not be wasted, but cherished.

Thank you, thank you from each one of us. Jim, Joanie(me, the Wife and Mother) Jillian,20, Juliet,13. Luke,11 and Levi,7.

If you ever need extra help my daughter Jillian is excellent on the computer and I am home full time Homeschooling. We can do it.

Gratefully Yours,
Joanie