Mom Get Glamorous Contest Winner!


I’m sure you will agree—this mom deserves the prize hands down.

Name: Jo Coiner Burzycki
Age: 32
Location: New Mexico
Kids: 3

Finding Strength:

When I look back to my life almost three years ago and think about all the things I would let get to me, I can’t help but laugh at myself. Simple things would make me yell, “My life stinks!” and it was never over anything important either. Just the usual daily stuff that we all complain about.

Then my whole life was turned upside down. It all started in September 2004 when our new family doctor noticed a large lump in my throat and asked me about it. He felt it was definitely a big deal immediately ordering blood tests and an ultrasound on my neck.

The ultrasound found four nodules on my thyroid and two weeks later I had a fine needle biopsy done. Shortly after that I had my results- medullary thyroid cancer. It’s a rare form of thyroid cancer that leads to testing for a rare genetic disorder. Three weeks later those results came back and I was diagnosed with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2a or MEN2a as it’s known.

You would think the bottom would fall out on my world and I would completely collapse in a puddle of tears at that point. I mean here I am not even thirty years old, I’m told I have cancer, plus a genetic disorder that causes MORE cancer. It honestly set me back on my heels but once I found out I wasn’t going to die within the next 6 months, I knew everything would be okay. Sure I cried some but then I wiped the tears and went on with life. I knew I needed to because I’m the Mommy and I had to be strong for my kids.

Immediately after my diagnosis we determined that my three children needed to be tested for MEN2a as well since it’s genetic. You see, each child of a person with this disorder has a 50% chance of having it as well. So blood was drawn on all three kids, we crossed our fingers as we waited, and almost a month later we had our results.

That is when my world felt like it was coming apart. It’s one thing to be told that you have cancer and will have to deal with it for the rest of your life but your babies? How can these perfect little people who are your whole world have to deal with this too? I prayed nightly that some miracle would happen and all three children would come back negative but I knew in my heart that our chances were very slim. One, two, and likely all three would have this. Then what would we do?

I remember the day the endocrinologist gave me the news like it was yesterday. Her exact words were “Your little one, Aidan, he came back negative” then tears started forming in her eyes and her voice broke “but your other two children tested positive, so they have this and will have to be tested and watched for the cancers”. She cried some then hugged me telling me how sorry she was. Did I cry? Only a few tears then I straightened up and in my mind all I could think was “I’ll be strong because I’m the Mom and I just have to be. They need me”.

In January 2005, I had my first surgery removing my adrenal glands and the adrenal cancer. This put me on steroid replacement for life. Two months before my 30th birthday and I was a cancer survivor from one cancer and starting a battle with another one.

On March 30th, my oldest children both had thyroidectomies. We hoped that we were getting a jump on the medullary cancer before it could start but after surgery we found that the cancer had already started in both of them. My two amazing children were now cancer survivors at almost fourteen and ten. We got the cancer in time and they will never have to worry about it again. They will take thyroid hormone replacement for the rest of their lives but this nasty little cancer that chemo doesn’t touch will not get them a second time.

Two months later I had another surgery to remove my thyroid (and any cancer there), three parathyroids, and any lymph nodes in my neck and shoulders that we could find to clean out as much medullary cancer as we could. This left me with a U-shaped scar that covers most of my neck and thyroid hormone replacement for good. When you think of what I had going in and what I traded it for, I think I’ve made out pretty well and feel proud of these “battle scars”.

We didn’t get all of the medullary cancer in time but I don’t worry about it. I know I have at least 5 to 10 years with my children (if not more) and that is more than a lot of people with cancer get. I’ll take any time I’m given and be more than happy with it because it means I get to watch my babies grow. I wouldn’t miss that for the world.

The way I act and live with this disorder sets an example for how my oldest two children will live their lives with it. Knowing that, how could I ever possibly do anything other than be strong? I will be strong because it shows them how to be strong. I will have hope because it means they will face this with hope as well. I will love life because in turn they will learn to love life too and if they are anything like their mother, they will remember to laugh even when things get hard.

I may be a mom living with cancer but when it comes right down to it, I’m just a mom… living. I choose to fight for life and live it in the best way I can.



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Posted on by Shannon Smyth in giveaway, Philanthropy 15 Comments

About the author

Shannon Smyth

Shannon began A Girl's Gotta Spa! beauty blog in 2005 to morph her love of beauty and in educating women on what truly works and what does not. She has been featured in Glamour, VOGUE Australia, Woman's World, Nail Pro, SHAPE and on WBRE's PA Live. She is a go-to source for social media consulting when it comes to beauty brands.

15 Responses to Mom Get Glamorous Contest Winner!

  1. Toya

    My God. What an amazing woman. She deserves to win … and she deserves to be healed. She is in my prayers.

  2. Erika

    That is the most incredible story ever. Best wishes to you and your family and congratulations on winning Shannon’s contest!

  3. Jazmin

    Wow. Jo, you are truly an inspiration. I wish you and your family all the love and blessings in the world.

    Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on winning the Mom Get Glamorous contest!

  4. Christina

    What a woman. What a mom! It’s hard to say congratulations for winning such a relatively insignificant prize, but much easier to say congratulations for being one hell of a woman. Best wishes, Jo, for you and your family – everyone around you are, no doubt, better people for knowing you. Thank you for sharing your story – may it inspire all who read it.

  5. Ashburnite

    oh my gosh. I’m sitting at my desk crying my eyes out. She definitely deserves it.

  6. Carleenp

    A truly amazing and inspirational story from an amazing Mom.

  7. Carla

    You are definitely inspiring and the prize couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person. :) Best of luck.

  8. Jo

    Oh my goodness! Thank you so much. I can’t decide if I’m more honored by winning or by the comments your readers have left! :) Ya’ll are going to make ME cry!

    I am off to check my email now! Again, I am humbled. Thank you

  9. Jo

    Hmmm, I know I left a comment but my computer is messing up sooooo. lol.

    Thank you very very much. I am honored and humbled to have won. Not only is it a wonderful prize but the comments from your readers are beautiful and little gifts of their own. Thank you to all of you.

  10. Teri

    I am in awe.

    Jo – you are very courageous, and I applaud your sunny outlook on life!

    Congratulations on winning Shannon’s favorites – I know you will enjoy them.

  11. Slackermommy

    Jo’s story brings me tears and gives me goosebumps every time I read it. She is so deserving of this. I’ve been reading her blog for nearly a year and her strength and positive outlook never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for choosing her!

  12. Iry

    Be strong.. and you are strong.. Congratulations.. :)

  13. Jennifer C.

    Very belated congratulations! You deserve it!

  14. Anna S.

    through all these hard times this lady managed to pull through. i am glad we have an opportunity to read about people like these.

  15. Vanessa Flores

    I missed another one. I am going to be hear foer the next . It is so exciting.

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