By: Abby Walton | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 23, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Tarnished blessing. Family and friends use the phrase when describing Joanna Francis and her two-time fight with breast cancer.
Francis spent her remaining years creating an organization that continues giving patients and survivors a sense of peace and hope.
Every month at the Goodwood Museum in Tallahassee, a group meets filled with different ages, races and even genders.
Their stories are different, but many of their experiences are the same.
Everyone there speaks the same language of breast cancer.
"The friendship started talking about cancer," JFLW co-founder Jennifer Taylor said.
Just like this group, the disease bonded Jennifer Taylor and Joanna Francis.
"Joanna had always said that one of the things that she really wanted was to have more connection with other woman who were going through similar diagnosis, treatment. Just the whole walk,” Taylor said.
For Joanna, that meant living with a stage four diagnosis.
"She never saw herself as the only person going through this and that's what really started Living Well," Taylor said.
Using her remaining time, the pair starting in 2011, the Joanna Francis Living Well Foundation.
"When they put their mind to something it got done. It didn't matter what it was,” first JFLW Foundation grant recipient Ann Schroeder said.
The first step; helping women like Anne.
"We couldn't find a good organization that we could go to and say it's not medical. What I need is not a treatment. It's not a drug. I need some social support," Taylor said.
Using money from fundraisers, the group helping people like Anne with gas money and groceries and Carla with her utility bill.
"You get to worrying about how you're going to make ends meet as far as paying your bills, making sure your household has everything that it needs and then also going to treatment every day and it takes a toll on your life," JFLW Foundation grant recipient Carla Russ said.
Helping families live as normal as possible while undergoing treatments.
"We always say that our goal is to make money and go broke right away. We want to make the money and give it all away, put it back into the community," Taylor said.
The other goal was to get a support group going.
Unfortunately, Joanna passed away in 2014 before getting to see its impact.
"Not long after she passed away, we decided as a board that this was absolutely imperative. We had to have this," Taylor said.
With Joanna's memory at the forefront, the group started in 2015 and continues to grow.
“The most important thing about our survivor group is that we have people at all stages of disease and recovery,” Taylor said.
The group meets once a month to talk, share and learn from each other.
"We had so much in common. And we could just talk about the whole entire journey,” JFLW Foundation Support Group member, Lisa Vince said.
A conversation still going strong, six years after Joanna's death.
The group provides those with cancer connections and creates bonds that'll last a life-time.
The support group meets the first Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Goodwood Museum in Tallahassee. If you’d like more information on the foundation, please click here.
Their 6th annual Fashionably Living Well fundraiser will take place in February 2018.