Everyone loves superheroes. We love their strength and power, but their true allure is their selfless acts and fight for justice. Superheroes inspire us to think we can be better than ourselves. They are beacons of hope that there’s a better future.
While comic book superheroes are make-believe, we can find superheroes in real life. For those of us in the NET community, one of LACNETS’ superheroes is our late founder and Executive Director Giovanna Joyce Imbesi. Giovanna was a jazz pianist and composer with a heart of gold. She made a profound impact on many in both the music and NET communities. Giovanna was diagnosed in 2005 with metastatic small bowel neuroendocrine cancer. Giovanna did not let her diagnosis slow her down. Instead, like any good superhero, she turned her own personal hardship into a way to help others. Against all odds, Giovanna obtained an MBA degree for the sole intent of launching a NET patient advocacy group in Los Angeles. Giovanna was an extraordinary visionary. Her passion was to build a community of education and support for NET patients and their loved ones. For her work in patient advocacy, she received the 2016 Monica Warner Advocacy Award, as well as the 2019 Cedars-Sinai Patient Leadership Award.
Giovanna lived fully despite her diagnosis for 14 years until succumbing to her disease in November 2019, two years ago. On her last day on this side of heaven, Giovanna told us with great pride that she felt her greatest legacy was LACNETS, now one of the largest NET patient advocacy groups in the country. (Read the Legacy of Giovanna Joyce Imbesi blog post. Read the #legendsliveforever blog post.)
Giovanna left behind a legacy and a vision. Her vision was to empower NET patients and caregivers by providing a healing exchange of educational resources and emotional support so they may live richly and fully.
Watch Carcinoid Cancer Foundation’s beautiful video for #RareDiseaseDay. Giovanna shares how she found her music could heal — both her and others.
Many people in general public may have only heard of NET because of celebrities such as Steve Jobs and Aretha Franklin who sadly passed away from the disease. Our hope is to change the narrative from associating this disease with famous people who die from the disease to a growing awareness of the more than 180,000 people who live with the disease. Giovanna wanted us all to know we have the power to change these numbers. In her 2019 blog post Spreading NET Awareness – How You Can Make a Difference, Giovanna wrote, “Each one of us has the ability to help change those numbers in our own community. There are opportunities to share more about NET and add one more person to the extended global family of NET awareness.”
To this end, LACNETS launched the VISION Campaign. We launched this to coincide with NET Cancer Day, a global initiative to spread awareness about NETs. NET Cancer Day was always special to Giovanna—her birthday is November 9, the day before NET Cancer Day. While we are remembering Giovanna around the two-year anniversary of her passing, this is truly a celebration of life. Giovanna liked to say, “Aging is a privilege.” Giovanna’s perspective of acceptance and gratitude was an inspiration. (Read the Finding Joy: Making Friend with Change blog post written by Giovanna. Read the Gratitude & Thanksgiving blogpost written by Giovanna.) We invite you to contribute to Giovanna’s vision and help continue her greatest legacy. Large or small, every gift matters and is greatly appreciated. If you have benefited from our programs, please consider paying it forward.
You can be a superhero too, by spreading Giovanna’s vision to your own network.
Written by Lisa Yen, NP, NBC-HWC
Director of Programs & Outreach, LACNETS