Policewoman back on the job

Friday, May 16, 2003
Joni Isebell is glad to be back on the job. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

An unusual announcement came over the scanner last week when Manila city employee Susie Baker announced to the local police officers -- "Manila to 20 -- Joni is cancer free and coming back to work tomorrow."

She was sharing the good news she received from Joni Isebell on Wednesday, May 7.

Isebell is a member of the Manila Police Department. She has served in Manila since February of 1998. She worked for the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department from1990 to 1998. She enjoys her job. She said like all people that have stressful jobs, there are times when you think about doing something else and she even tried that once. It did not take her long to realize that she loved her work and she returned to law enforcement.

"It is all about kids and keeping them safe," Isebell said. "I can't express how happy I am to be back at work."

Isebell underwent thyroid surgery on February 12, followed up with radiation treatments.

"During the radiation treatment, I was in a room, with everything covered in plastic, for three days. I could not have any contact with anyone in person. Thankfully, I could talk on the telephone and kept in touch with my friends and children. That was one of the most difficult times of the last few months," Isebell said.

Isbell, the mother of two young children, got the unexpected news in January that she had cancer.

"It has been a difficult year and I can't say enough about my friends and the community that have supported me through it," Isebell said.

Isebell's sister died in January at the age of 40. Isebell wasn't feeling well and was having back and chest pains. A few days following her sister's funeral, she went to the doctor. She had thought it might be her heart or kidneys but she had not thought about cancer.

While she was in the hospital having x-rays, a tumor on her thyroid was discovered. More tests including ultrasounds and a biopsy were performed and she heard the words cancer and surgery. From there she went to thinking about her children who are eight and six.

"The last few months have been hard on my children and we have spent as much time together as we could," Isebell said. "My friends, the churches and the entire community have been my rock through this time. I don't know what I would have done without everyone. Lisa Wilhite, Brenda Watson, and Nancy Modesitt not only took care of my children, they took care of me. Barbara Pierce and Susie Baker gave me moral support when I needed it the most. A group of good friends even came to my house to finish a remodeling project that I was in the middle of when I got sick."

Isebell also praised the Manila city officials and her supervisor Chief Jackie Hill for their support.

"The community supported benefits including a wrestling match, gospel singing, quilt giveaway, car washes and other events to help me financially. You just don't realize how many caring people are in our community. It is sad, but in my job you do see a lot of the bad and if you aren't careful, you can let the bad overshadow the good. This experience has really made me see the good people all round me. It also gave me a needed lesson in patience," Isebell said.

Isebell went to the doctor last week not knowing the results of her tests. Her doctor had sent all of the information to a cancer center in Houston to get a second opinion on follow-up treatment. She had been told that she could be looking at another surgery or more treatments.

When she got the good news that there was a small spot still there that would probably show up on scans for the next three years, but basically it was nothing to worry about. The radio active iodine was still there and eventually would kill it. Her first question was, can I go back to work tomorrow?

She is back at work and getting back her life.

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