Fighter faces battle with winning record
by Marguerite Cline
Columnist
May 09, 2013 10:33 PM | 801 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JoAnn Chambers Woodall is a fighter with a winning record. She has survived being bitten by a copperhead snake. Twice, she has recovered after being bitten by a black widow spider. Now she is fighting for her life again.

This time her battle is with small cell lung cancer. When she was first diagnosed, she did not want to take treatments. At the insistence of family members and her doctors, she relented.

She and Harry Woodall will have been married 50 years in June. Tony, Johnny, Marsha Woodall Malone and Jeffrey are their children. They have seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.

For almost 40 years, JoAnn drove a bus for Cherokee County Schools. At first she transported special needs children. Every afternoon while she was driving that bus she would stop at a store in Keithburg and get a Coca-Cola for each child on the bus.

Sometimes Harry would substitute for her. She would remind him to get the children a Coke on the way home. He said she made about $6 a day and spent about $4 a day on the kids.

Harry had no problem driving a school bus. He was a professional truck driver.

Marsha describes her mother as loving and giving. It bothered her when children riding her bus did not have things they needed like shoes or socks. JoAnn took care of that.

Harry and JoAnn met when she was 15. He was riding a pony by her parents’ — Ethel and Jeff Chambers —house and the family dogs ran out at him. JoAnn called the dogs back into the yard.

Harry says he immediately liked everything about her. He also liked her parents who were, “… good, Christian people.”

Their years together were not always easy. Twice, their house burned. Harry remembers how people like Roy and Elizabeth Hester helped them start over. The Hesters brought them twin beds.

JoAnn is small and dainty. She is tenderhearted and always welcomes everyone. Marsha never remembers her mother turning anyone away.

One of her favorite things to do is play Texas Tea, a computer game. Marsha fondly tells of when she and her mother went on a cruise. It was the first time JoAnn had been on an airplane or a ship. She enjoys telling the neighbors about her trip.

For decades JoAnn has had her hair fixed on either Friday or Saturday. She never changed her hairstyle. Sometimes Marsha would suggest it was time for a new hairdo. JoAnn would not agree.

Because of her treatments she knew she would lose her hair, so she had her head shaved. Marsha kept reassuring her this was just another step toward her getting well.

Marsha, Mary Ann Woodall and Claire McGhee went shopping with JoAnn to get a wig. Actually, they had a good time trying on all the different styles. Marsha bought herself a wig, too.

They also bought the molds ladies put their wig on to keep its shape when they are not wearing it. Long pins hold the wig on the mold. Harry enjoyed teasing JoAnn about using the pins to hold the wig on her head.

Before JoAnn got sick, she looked after Harry. Before going to bed, she would lay out his clothes for the next day. When he got home in the evening, supper was ready. A great cook, her specialties are banana pudding and biscuits.

Now Harry looks after his wife. He is very protective of her including being certain visitors wash their hands, wear gloves, etc. before they are around her. Too, he cooks. Marsha said that her parents have always loved one another and that JoAnn’s being sick has brought them even closer together.

Staying by her side, Harry records all pertinent information including when and what she eats, when she takes her medicines and the dates and time of her appointments.

JoAnn’s family is appreciative of the compassion shown her by medical personnel during her illness, surgery and treatments. They are also thankful for their friends and neighbors who have sent food, gifts and gift cards.

When JoAnn would attend her children and grandchildren’s ball games, she would shout encouragement from the stands saying, “Come on. You can do it.”

Family members call her Nan. Now they say to her, “Come on Nan. You can do it.”

Remembering she has recovered from a poisonous snake bite, being bitten twice by black widow spiders and started over twice after the family’s house burned, it becomes clear that JoAnn Woodall is a survivor.

Knowing all of that, her family knows she will win her battle against cancer, too. After all, she has won hard battles before this one. Plus, it is hard to keep a good woman down. JoAnn Woodall is a good woman.



Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.
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