Stuart Scott, remembered as an anchor of ESPN and sportscaster who bravely fought appendix cancer once said, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” Those inspiring words echoed how my husband Joe lived his life… before cancer and after his diagnosis of signet-ring adenocarcinoma of the appendix in July 2017. It is a rare and aggressive cancer that is diagnosed in about 1000 people each year in the United States. As in Joe’s case, this type of cancer is often found incidentally. When doctors suspecting appendicitis went in to remove his appendix, they instead found cancer which had spread to his abdomen and colon. It was a diagnosis that forever changed our lives, and despite the prognosis and the feeling that our world had caved in, Joe fought with amazing faith and unwavering strength and courage. He continued living his life to the fullest. His glass was always half-full, and then some. He never took anyone or anything for granted, loved unconditionally and continued flashing his blue eyes and handsome smile that warmed all our hearts. He looked for the positive and counted his blessings even on the toughest of days. He was bound and determined to not let this disease change the way he lived his life, loved his family and friends, and managed his career as a department manager and professional electrical engineer, all of which he deeply enjoyed.
Joe was the youngest of seven siblings and grew up in a close-knit and loving family. Their bonds were unbreakable and stories of growing up and life together provided many laughs through the years and never got old. He was called the added blessing by his parents when they were surprised to learn they were expecting their seventh child. Joe liked to joke, as a sibling would, that his parents stopped at perfection. Along with his faith, it was his family that was most important to him. He shared this love with me during our 28 years of marriage and with our two daughters, who were his greatest treasures. He was truly a wonderful man and husband – the love of my life.
To his girls, he was the greatest dad ever. He loved being on the sidelines cheering them on during soccer games and gymnastics meets. He earned the title of math genius by our youngest as he could figure out and help her with any question on her homework. He was so proud of his girls. Joe was also an avid University of Michigan fan. He loved to watch Michigan football and basketball often discussing plays with our girls. He was a life-long runner and was always up for a fun round of golf or tennis with friends. Time spent on the beaches of Lake Michigan and Bethany Beach, sunsets, telling stories around campfires, weddings and holidays were some of his favorite things.
Appendix cancer is an understudied cancer and studies that have been done are years old. In many cases it is treated like colon cancer. The treatment of chemotherapies and debulking/HIPEC surgery used to treat this is, in a word, brutal. Joe battled through months of chemotherapies, laparoscopies, immunotherapy and then surgery to remove part of his colon and as much of the disease as possible. It was the doctors’ plan and our hope that Joe would regain strength, continue treatment and have the HIPEC along with a second surgery to remove the rest of the cancer. Despite our best efforts, after setbacks from which Joe could not recover, it was God’s plan to call him home. Joe had said while fighting his fight that he hoped his doctors learned something from his journey so they could help others fighting this disease. It was his selfless nature to think of others before himself. Even though Joe is no longer with us, this fundraiser is a way he can continue to help and touch the lives and hearts of others.
Stuart Scott also said that, “Life consists of two dates with a dash in between. Make the dash count.” Joe did just that, in everything he did as a husband, father, brother, uncle, son, friend and colleague. It is our hope that through this fundraiser, we can help fund much needed and important research so that others with this disease can have hope for a cure and continue making their dash count. There is so much life to live.
With grateful hearts,
The Gouin Family & Friends