My mother, Joann Baratelli, turned 60 years old on April 28, 2015 and her doctor informed her that she was in the best health of her life. He said whatever she was doing, to keep doing it.joann-m-difederico_toasting-drinkTwo weeks later she woke up with no voice. When she called her doctor he said it was probably allergies. She took medication but it did nothing so my husband and I convinced her to make an appointment. Her doctor discovered that her vocal cord was completely paralyzed and there was a mass. After more testing we were told that my mother had Stage IV Lung Cancer adenocarcinoma.

I became my mother’s health advocate and went with her to every appointment and conducted my own research. I wanted to know as much as I could about this type of cancer and its treatment options. When I asked her doctor about tests for early detection of lung cancer, he informed me that a patient must meet certain criteria in order to be screened and, even though my mom was a former smoker, she did not fit the criteria and was not screened. She only tolerated two rounds of chemotherapy and passed away on November 23, 2015, just 5 months after diagnosis.

I want to help facilitate change in honor of my mother so I began a non-profit organization to assist people and their families recently diagnosed with and/or living with lung cancer. The purpose for Breathe for Baratelli Foundation is to raise awareness and funds for lifesaving research, education, support, and services. I would like to have a central place where the patients can come for support groups, pet therapy, provide questions to ask their doctors, and accompany them to their doctor appointments if requested.

With my foundation, I would also like to incorporate all of the things my mother cherished, especially her strong faith, which never wavered. My dream is to have family nights where we make dinner and play games and everyone forgets about their diagnosis, even just for a couple of hours.  I feel this is so important because a cancer diagnosis truly impacts an entire family. For more information about the Foundation, please visit our Facebook page.