Great Comebacks Recognizes Joanna Burgess, RN, as National Award Recipient
Burgess overcame bladder cancer and two ostomy surgeries to become WOC nurse
Nominated for Unsung Heroines by Andrea Coan
Joanna Burgess, RN, CWOCN of Apex, NC, was honored in June as this year’s Great Comebacks® National Award recipient at a ceremony held at the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses (WOCN®) Society™ 44th Annual Conference in Charlotte, NC. The Great Comebacks® Program, now in its 27th year, annually honors outstanding individuals who inspire others to live life to the fullest after ostomy surgery.
Burgess’ ostomy journey of 45 years began when she was diagnosed with a rare type of bladder cancer at only three years old. Urostomy surgery and radiation therapy saved her life, but led to a lifetime of complications. The strong cobalt radiation affected the growth of her bones, and for much of her life she has had difficulty walking. Thirty years after her urostomy surgery, she also chose to have a colostomy to end years of recurring pain due to radiation-induced colitis.
Declared “disabled” from work, Burgess nevertheless pursued her passion: becoming a nurse, initially specializing in pediatrics, and travelling on mission trips around the world. Based on her personal experiences, she developed a special interest in supporting patients with an ostomy and, in 2008, became a wound, ostomy and continence nurse. Burgess is currently working to establish an outpatient ostomy clinic at her hospital, to make it possible for more patients to work with a specialty-care nurse through all stages of their follow-up care after surgery.
“Through all of Joanna’s medical challenges, her positive attitude and desire to help others kept her going. Great Comebacks is proud to recognize Joanna for everything she has done, as a patient and as a nurse, to build greater awareness and educate others about living life with an ostomy,” said Rolf Benirschke, founder and chairman, Great Comebacks® Program.
“When Joanna had urostomy surgery more than 40 years ago her family had trouble finding information about ostomy surgery. Her life’s goal of making sure that patients have the support and resources they need is one that ConvaTec has long shared, as a leader in providing innovative products and services in ostomy care,” said Brad Barton, president, ConvaTec, U.S.
More information about all of the Great Comebacks® Award recipients is available at www.GreatComebacks.com.
About the Great Comebacks® Program
Now in its third decade, the Great Comebacks® Program raises awareness of quality of life issues for people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer and other diseases that can lead to ostomy surgery. The mission of Great Comebacks® is to provide information and inspiration to people facing the emotional and physical challenges of living with serious intestinal diseases and ostomy surgery. The program also aims to remove the stigma surrounding ostomy surgery and to educate patients, their families and friends, and the general public that ostomy surgery can be a second chance to fulfill dreams, and lead a full and productive life with joy and passion. For more information, please visit www.GreatComebacks.com.