Canadian Underwriter

WICC’s 25th: Getting to know Joanne Arenas — Bringing back the light

December 30, 2021   by Women and Insurance Cancer Crusade (WICC)

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From an outsider’s perspective, Joanne Arenas was doing everything right. As she approached her mid-30s, she was committed to working out, eating well and living a rich social life. Behind the scenes, it was a different story…one Joanne felt dimmed the light inside her as she worked to change herself to fit in with the world around her.

It was during a boxing workout with friends in 2015 that Joanne felt a lump in her breast. After consulting some friends, she decided to check in with the doctor just to be on the safe side. “Everyone said not to worry but I noticed it was getting bigger, so I went for testing that day.” Joanne recalls. That same month, she was diagnosed with Estrogen-positive breast cancer.

There wasn’t much time to process the situation as Joanne’s tumor was growing quickly. Less than a month after her diagnosis, she started chemo. “Because of the size of the lump, the doctors offered two treatment options: I could either undergo a mastectomy or try chemo first to shrink it, which would help when it came time to remove the tumor in a lumpectomy. That’s why I did chemo first.” Joanne responded incredibly well to the chemotherapy, which allowed her to undergo a minor surgery to remove the remnants of the lump. After about a year, Joanne was back at work.

“I was shocked to get cancer. I worked out. I ate healthy. I just wasn’t expecting this.” As a result of the speed in which her cancer and treatment progressed, Joanne couldn’t properly process the ordeal until about a year later. Her lifestyle at the time caused intense emotions as she dealt with her diagnosis. “I broke down just a few times. I had lost my mom a few years before, so going through without a female figure in my life was hard. I held a lot of that in. I was in my mid-30’s, single and dating. I was worried about losing my hair and my breasts.” Joanne said. “As time went on, I realized how superficial these things were.”

With this new perspective on life, Joanne slowly started to feel her light brightening. “Going through something like this taught me to be proud of who I am and has allowed me to return to that person. I lost a lot of self-confidence, and I started to doubt myself, but over the last couple of years, I feel like I’m back again. I’m still emotional when I reflect on what I’ve gone through, but I accept myself now more than I ever did.”

During her experience with cancer, Joanne learned about WICC. “Relay for Life has been great experience, it’s kind of like my way of paying it forward. I found many support systems in WICC when I was sick and I took advantage of them.” Joanne continues to be involved with WICC Relay for Life events today.

When asked for any advice that she would give to someone who is experiencing cancer, she says “Embrace what is happening – stay positive and do what you can to get through it. Do your best to look at the bright side of things. This is not an easy experience; everyone will handle it differently, so just do what you can to get through it.”


Joanne is Director, Claims – Auto PD, Cargo & Appraisal at Northbridge Financial Corporation in Toronto, Ontario.

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