Angela Panusa first met her Italian husband, Giovanni (John), during her work as an interpreter in China. Their connection was undeniable and, despite their different backgrounds, they ended up marrying in 1999.
“John was really my first love,” remembers Angela. “The thought of me moving away from my home in China to start a life with John seemed incomprehensible in the beginning, but after spending so much time together, we eventually grew to a point where we never wanted to be apart.”
In 2000, John sold his company in the mining exploration business, and the couple embraced a life of travel, followed by a move to their dream home in Tsawwassen in November 2015.
In August 2019, John started to experience back pain and noticed a lump near his spine. The lump was initially diagnosed as hematoma with the accompanying back pain related to a past injury.
Sensing something more serious, the doctor in delta hospital requested a further bone scan and MRI, which identified two spots on John’s spine. Unfortunately, tests came back inconclusive and John was sent home.
That September, John’s pain worsened and the couple sought a second opinion. John was referred to a spine specialist, and after in-depth consultation with other medical experts, his diagnosis was confirmed: John had lymphoma.
The worst of the news later came when John’s condition was upgraded to advanced stage, double-hit lymphoma, confirmed by BC Cancer’s Dr. Kerry Savage.
In the wake of the John’s diagnosis, the couple struggled to make sense of their new reality and started John’s treatment plan guided by Dr. Savage. At first, the treatments seemed to be moving John in a positive direction, but sadly the cancer was too advanced and each treatment option began to fail.
On February 6th 2020, John passed away peacefully in the arms of his love, Angela, surrounded by his family.
In the months before his passing, John and Angela pledged to give back to BC Cancer with a gift, followed by a gift in both their wills, as a way to advance lymphoma research and treatment options for other future patients. It is Angela’s hope that sharing their story will encourage others to consider supporting cancer research in their own wills.
“I wanted John to be able to feel the good that would come from this gift in his remaining days on Earth,” says Angela, “Which is why we ultimately made the decision then and there to do something for other people who will face lymphoma in the future.”
We thank Angela for the opportunity to honour John and share their story. We also thank her and John for their generous gift that will help change outcomes for other families like their own.