There was a time that this Pierce College student lived two different lives, one was dealt with depression and grief while the other was maintaining a simple, tranquil life.
For addiction studies major Joni Gold, being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 was never something she ever thought she’d have to deal with at the age of 59. This five foot three inch woman shed a few tears after receiving the news, bravely preparing herself for the next step towards recovery.
“When I first got diagnosed, I cried for about 10 minutes,” Gold said. “Then I decided to put one foot in front of the next and do the next indicated step and get on with the cure. I have experienced chemotherapy, breast surgery and I am about to enter the radiation phase. The chemo was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through in my life.”
“I learned so many things, like taking things five minutes minutes at a time and making it through the next day. Human contact though is the biggest cure against cancer and in a way surpasses medicine.”
While dealing with the struggles of going through cancer, Gold remembers a time where she experimented with selling and using drugs like cocaine for around 30 years of her adolescent youth. Now at the age of 60 she looks back and realizes how much time she wasted going down the wrong path.
“When I was a youngster, I didn’t feel quite right so I got into drugs at an early age,” Gold said. “They were my solution to a problem I didn’t know I had. My problem was physical, spiritual, emotional and it was about me not feeling like I fit in. Drugs became a way of life for me and selling drugs became a way of life for me. The drug culture became a way of life for me and it lead me down a road that I wouldn’t recommend.”
Released from prison in 2008 for the possession of narcotics she decided to make a career in helping those with addiction since she was unable to find employment after being released. Gold became a Pierce student in 2009 and after two years she received certification as an alcohol and drug counselor.
“The reason why I came to Pierce is because I didn’t know what to do with myself,” Gold said. “No one would hire me because I was a felon and I thought my life was over. I had to realize that I had to take personal responsibility for the (sic) storm that I had put myself through. I started to get free and I realized that I could do anything I wanted.”
“What I didn’t want to do be was one more ex-con telemarketer, so I dedicated to do the thing that I had known about my whole life. I said to myself ‘I know drugs and I know alcohol’ So I decided that I will go back to school and see if I can help anybody.”
Gold has also gotten support from student Julie Jacobs whose family has opened up their home to Joni including having her for Thanksgiving dinners for the past few years.
“Joni is an incredibly there for you kind of friend more so than any other person I have ever met,” Jacobs said. “Early on in my second year of knowing her as a friend and I was in school in Tennessee, I was picking up my kids from the airport and they got caught in this storm. It was a horrible storm and I was driving in weather that I had no business driving in. I was absolutely freaked out and I called Joni and she completely talked me through it.”
“The things she said in the calm of the situation, she gave me all the tools I needed so that I could go and help my kids.”
One of the people that helped her along the way was 49-year-old Pierce student Francis Alvarez. They became close friends after taking a sociology class while also playing an important role in Joni’s battle with cancer. Whether it has been continuing conversations or sending Gold motivational texts while she was in treatment she has always been their for her.
“I am amazed at Joni and her struggle because I see her carrying it with such grace,” Alvarez said. “I can only hope that any time that I am challenged that I am able to show that kind of example just like Joni. She is an inspiration to me.”