Employee Spotlight: Joy Harter’s Cancer Journey

When Joy Harter walks the halls of Bell Trace, residents and staff members frequently pull her aside and ask how she’s feeling. She’s happy to tell them that she’s now in a much better place than she was two years ago.

In September of 2016, while she was in the midst of serving as executive director at Bell Trace, Joy was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few weeks later, she faced another diagnosis — uterine cancer.

Joy had to jump over many obstacles on the road to recovery, including complications from her breast and uterine cancer procedures that led to four additional surgeries.

Bell Trace residents and staff members lifted her spirits during this difficult time.

“The outpouring of support was incredible,” Joy said. “To this day, it warms me to the bottom of my heart. I was overwhelmed by all of the warmth and compassion.”

Joy recalls being flooded with flowers, cards and even fuzzy socks. Residents and co-workers collected more than 100 pairs of soft, colorful and quirky socks to keep her comfortable and bring a smile to her face. Bell Trace activities coordinator Melissa Davis also ordered bright purple “Strong 4 Joy” bracelets that everyone wore to show support.

“Where else do you get that kind of love?” Joy said with a hearty laugh. “I have an extended family here at Bell Trace. They’re all looking out for me, and I really appreciate it.”

When she was first diagnosed, Joy turned inward and kept herself guarded. But she later realized the value of opening up to people and accepting their help.

“Once I got that second diagnosis, the quietness within me turned into a very loud roar, and I felt compelled to share my story,” Joy said. “I’m so glad I did because so many people opened their hearts in return.”

Joy’s cancer journey brought her closer to co-workers and residents as well as friends and family. A year prior to her diagnoses, Joy’s younger sister battled breast cancer. They bonded over their experiences and served as beacons of strength for one another.

“I was by her side as she fought, and she was my hero,” Joy said.

Despite all of the challenges she has faced, Joy is thankful for the relationships and life lessons that resulted from those hardships. And she is grateful to now be cancer-free.

“I’ve learned to be open to letting your experience take you in a positive direction,” Joy said. “I’m fortunate that I can sit here and say that’s what mine did for me.”