Ginny Pazdan

Faith / Family / Friends / Ginny’s Story In Memory of Joe Pazdan / Beloved Husband / Father / Grandfather / Brother / Uncle / Architect / Community Advocate

Joe had a passion for our Greenville community and will always be remembered for his care, love and compassion for others.  He lost his two year earthly battle to brain cancer in April 2023.  As his wife, I wanted to share Joe’s journey and our story with each of you to help raise awareness.

Our cancer connection began at the end of June, 2021 when Joe was diagnosed with grade 4 Glioblastoma.  We initially went to visit our primary care physician for some initial headaches and elevated blood pressure. But one day Joe seemed to have some stroke like symptoms and I decided to take him to the St. Francis ER. I noticed one side of his mouth drooping slightly and his balance was off.  They did a CAT scan and it was after that we were told by Dr. Bob Siegel and Dr. Michael Bucci that Joe had a brain tumor and would need surgery within a few days.  We stayed in ICU for monitoring that evening, but we were able to go home for the weekend to process everything and let family know the news.  That following Monday Joe headed to surgery.

Dr. Bucci was able to remove over 90% of the tumor and this allowed Joe to keep all of his abilities,  which was such a blessing! We considered this a success, yet we knew the statistics of this cancer was not good.  After getting home and healing, Joe began radiation and chemo pills.  Joe’s brother John was was a constant with us as we would make the trip to Duke University periodically for consultation.  We were so happy that Joe could do his treatments in Greenville.  He did so well despite all that had been thrown his way.  Joe was always so positive and even helped the rest of our family cope! I would be lying if I didn’t say there were some ups and downs, and unexpected trips to the hospital.  But Joe’s faith and attitude never wained!

As the months went on and medication was adjusted, I have fond memories of Joe becoming a real “foodie” and wanting to eat out all of the time.  We tried so many new Greenville restaurants. He was also eager to walk and workout with his trainer.  Some of our most special memories were taking a trip to Italy with his four siblings and their spouses, as well as a trip to the Bahamas.  And for our time at home, Joe’s close friend Parks McLeod began a “Men’s Night,” where two men brought dinner to him on Wednesdays, and I was able to go out with friends.  They visited, laughed, and had so much fun! 

Joe continued to tell us all he ever needed was “his Faith, his Family, and his Friends.” I truly cannot imagine this journey without those 3 things and Joe’s positivity.  

For anyone that has gone through a cancer journey themselves, or with a loved one, they know there is no doubt that whatever the outcome of a loved one’s cancer, it will change a family.  Your faith is certainly tested, but it does bring people and families together as they collaborate to care for their loved one.  One blessing is I feel my kids and I have become closer as we have had to rely on each other more. Even though they are all adults now, we still touch base and remain closer than ever.  Our family also has become more sensitive to those who have walked this walk of cancer.  We had no idea how emotional it could be until living it day to day.  After Joe’s journey I hope that I can be of help to someone else as they navigate this awful path. There is no instruction book but having a support system is so important to help lift you up during the difficult days.    

I never really thought of myself as a “survivor” until I learned the Cancer Survivors Park considers care givers survivors too.  It is hard to think of it that way about something Joe suffered from, but I feel that I and his siblings did everything we could to make good decisions regarding his health.  I now look at life through a different lens and try not to take anything for granted as we are not guaranteed our next day on earth.

Glioblastoma in adults has a life span of 12-15 months on average.  Joe fought hard for 22 months and never once complained.  Our family feels so lucky to have had him that long!  We are also happy to say that we know of a few people that have been living with Glioblastoma for years now!  

As a caregiver, my biggest piece of advice is to ask a lot of questions to your healthcare team. Do not take no for an answer if you think it can be or should be different.  Between Dr. Siegel, Dr. Bucci, and the Duke care team we were in excellent hands! It is so important to be your own advocate or as a care giver, be an advocate for your loved one!  

Other advice – – Don’t forget to make every minute count with your loved one making memories- cancer does give the gift of time versus losing someone suddenly.  And lastly, surround yourself with a really good support system and get out and do things with friends.  I’ve played tennis more since the kids are grown and have developed some of my closest friendships.  During Joe’s illness, he insisted that I continue to play knowing how these special friends were such a support system to me.  Between tennis friends, other good friends, and Joe’s siblings and spouses, I have been incredibly blessed to be covered in their love and support!

Join us at Pazdan Peloton on April 27th to celebrate the life and legacy of Joe Pazdan.

Story by Laura Brasington

Photo supplied by the Pazdan Family