They say it takes a Village. I say, “Sometimes it takes an entire Country.”
The journey I’ve been on since June 12th 1999, has taken many turns, dips and some paths that were not easy to follow. I never would have been able to accomplish any of this without the love and support of so many people. Some of these people have come into my life anew and others have reappeared out of nowhere.
Of all these, there is one person who I could not have made this journey without. That’s my husband John, who I lovingly call “Husband”. His strength, patience and unconditional love took me out of some scary and dark times allowing God’s brilliant light and love to shine on my face and carry me through. He always held my head up high, even when I felt too weak to do so. He was, is, and always will be My Rock! How he can take the most complex things and make them easy for me to understand is a simple way to explain how he helped the woman he fell in love with find the woman I am now and rejoice in every achievement along the way. Even when it’s as complex as “Learning to Make Toast”. Husband, I couldn’t love you more. You ARE my life.
My parents, sisters, nieces, and nephews have been relentless in allowing me to trip, stumble, fall, and even laugh with me when I was laughing at myself. They were teaching me to just keep on keepin’ on. All while setting up an invisible force field with their love and caring making sure someone always had an eye on me (I tend to just kinda “do” things) and that I was safe. Thank you Mama, Daddy, Tina, Rita, Ann, Linda, Lisa, Patty, Shawn, Kim, Adam, Kelsey, Ryan, Mandi, Kirian, Jacob, Alex, and Faith. I love you with everything I’m made of, most of which is pasta!
Among the most gifted and dedicated professionals in this world, I’ve been blessed with the best. They not only healed my broken body, they touched my heart, leaving their spirit of compassion and healing my broken spirit. They were all instrumental in guiding me down a path that, far from the yellow brick road, was my own road and turning my misery into a ministry.
To Dr. Blake Welling, the gifted neurosurgeon who saved my life in the wee hours of June 12th 1999, I could never thank you enough. You gave new meaning to “birthday” when I turned 42 lying in a coma on my June 13th birthday. It was surely God working through your fine hands, brilliant mind and brain that allowed that to happen. My wings didn’t fit and you made it possible for me to for me to keep shopping for a new pair. I look forward to calling you every year on my birthday as I have done for years now just to say “thank you for giving me another one”. Celebrate birthdays my friends. God gave them to us for a reason!
There aren’t enough words in the human language to describe Dr. Bruce, who I love like a brother. His God-given gift gave me back my world. Because of the damage to my brain, everything I once knew had literally fallen apart or else I saw so many images of them I could make no sense of it. He was able to take my visual world that had just been rocked to its core and give me back my sense of normalcy. This is his purpose and he pursues it with intense passion. Patients who have Dr. Bruce of NW EyeCare Professionals as their Behavioral Optometrist are blessed to say the least. Once Dr. Bruce touches your head, heart and soul, he doesn’t let go. He has changed my life forever, and for the better as I go out in the world and try to emulate his passion. He is not only my hero; he is a source of my strength. His wife Nancy is also a true inspiration to me. Without her even knowing so, she has taught me how to love and respect myself with everything I do. Your beautiful children are a reflection of your love and I cherish that you’ve brought them into my life. Thank you Dr. Bruce, Nancy, Justin & Ally. As my journey continues, I will strive to touch lives as you all do on a daily basis!
Everyone needs a good kookoo doctor at one time or another. I’ll need Dr. Cole for the rest of my life and I’m grateful he’s here for me. I would have never understood the magnitude or scope of my injury if it hadn’t been for him explaining it to me in a language I could understand. Simple is always better, especially in the brain-injured world. Thank you Dr. Cole, you’ve made it easier to enjoy my life while acknowledging the injury that reinvented Joan.
My speaking journey would have never taken the wonderful turns it has were it not for Chuck Goetschel. It was Chuck’s influence that helped me to see my purpose. To see that I was put here on earth to make a difference. Not just to exist but to live with purpose and to touch other lives in the process. Do you see a pattern here? Taking advice, counsel, and sometimes a ‘time out’ from people I admire and deeply love and respect.
My thanks, love and tons of hugs go out to Carolyn Martin & Kathy Richard. My words would have never seen their way to paper much less an audience if not for these two wonderful women; women who I have the delight and honor to call ‘friends’. They took time from their busy schedules to mentor and give me the extra ‘push’ onto a stage, reminding me to speak from my heart and not my head. That’s when I’d make the most impact. Now ya can’t shut me up!
There is so much I can say about my best friend Susan Lehr and not enough paper. Susan was my first friend after the crash; she got the ‘unabridged edition’ of Joan. In other words, she got me raw, and at times raw and unedited. I thank God daily for her patience, perseverance, and continued love. She met the “Joan” I was still trying to get to know and has never wavered in her loyalty and friendship. Words could never tell you, Susan, just how much I love you and what an impact you made in my heart and soul. I strive to keep making you proud of me. The rough and ready Joan!!
There was a time when Oregon Impact needed new leadership and in stepped Janelle Lawrence to take on the challenge. Janelle not only took on the role as Oregon Impact’s leader, she stepped into my heart as well. She’s there for me day or night, just a phone call away if I need anything or simply want to talk. She bends over backwards to make sure I’m present at as many events as possible and that I have the opportunity to impact and influence people to make better choices.
Judge Gregory Silver, a man I have the pleasure of calling ‘friend’, is the best and most dedicated moderator of the Victims Impact Panel. Judge Silver explains that impaired driving is not only against the law, but that it changes lives forever. With a never-ending respect for others and a deep caring to make a change in people’s perception of bad choices, Judge Silver steps up to the plate and always hits a home run. He has made me a better speaker by being more conscious of people and seeing that most people simply made a mistake, a bad choice. Thank you Greg, you are a blessing in my life and the lives of others.
Oh yah, I guess it would be best to thank the author of my biography Kelly Sharp. I met Kelly years ago when I was still wearing a helmet, sporting a walker, and sounding & looking drunk when I talked or walked. She didn’t stare at me like I was a freak show or could be the ‘star’ of a book someday. She’ll tell you she watched me navigate a world where she, thank God, didn’t have a map. Stunned and somewhat in awe at times, Kelly saw someone who not only recovered from a horrific crash, but learned to really live in this, my “new normal” world. She saw a spirit that she was inspired to tell the world about. That sometimes we have no control of situations but we can take control of our outcomes. That it starts with attitude and will always end in gratitude.
I am grateful to everyone who is in my life or has come into my life once again; and there are so many people to thank. Every one of you has left a permanent mark on my soul and written your names on my heart. I take those marks with me, cherish and hold them tightly. At times I need to pull them out in order to put one foot in front of the other. I may never run again but with my head held high and my arms outstretched, I will continue to live a purpose-filled life and make a difference in this world, one small step at a time.