Blue Springs teacher chronicling her battle against cancer

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LEES SUMMIT, Mo. – Keep fighting.

That’s the message from one young cancer patient from Blue Springs, who says she wants to be a source of encouragement for other young people in need of care.

It’s been four months since 24-year-old schoolteacher Joanna Barker was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Barker said it didn’t take long for she and her family to realize the number of publications geared toward young people with cancer is somewhat scarce.

That’s when Joanna said she decided to turn her setback into a comeback. Don’t expect to see Barker looking as if she’s been defeated by the disease.

“I know I’m going to beat it anyway. I’ll leave it all to the doctors,” Barker said.

That’s why the camera shutters are snapping near her chemotherapy treatments at the University of Kansas Cancer Center in Lee’s Summit. Barker is journaling every step of the way, and planning to turn her fight into a book aimed toward 20-something people with cancer.

“(20-somethings) are graduating college or entering college,” Barker said. “We’re trying to find ‘the one.’ We’re trying to get a job. We’re in the most stressful part of life where you’re beginning.”

Cancer hits home for this family. Barker’s aunt, Ginger Huetsch, said Joanna was 11 when her father died from the same form of cancer. He was only 32 years old.

“For younger people, there’s nothing,” Huestch said. “When my brother was fighting this battle, he had nowhere to turn. There was just nothing. That was 13 years ago, and we’re still there.”

“How’s it going to affect things like dating? Things like starting a new job,” Barker asked. “I just want to get the word out there.”

Barker says doctors re-evaluate her after each round of chemotherapy. She’s due for another checkup in March. Once she has a clean bill of health, she wants to dedicate all her time toward the book.

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