Undeterred by Cancer, Olympic Hopeful Faces Second Daughter’s Heart Surgery

Joan Nunyan had just completed her grueling training for the 2012 London Olympics when she received news that would test her to her very core: her 1-year-old daughter Pearl had a congenital heart defect and would require major surgery..

It was not the first time Joan, then 36, had faced a life-altering health crisis. In 2007, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 31. After undergoing surgery and months of chemotherapy, she was declared cancer-free..

But Pearl’s heart condition was a different battle altogether. The surgery was risky, and the outcome uncertain. Joan and her husband, Peter, were filled with fear and uncertainty..

Despite her own health challenges, Joan refused to let cancer define her or her family’s future. She leaned on her faith, her family, and her unwavering determination..

On the day of Pearl’s surgery, Joan was there by her side, holding her daughter’s hand and whispering words of encouragement. The surgery was successful, but Pearl faced a long and difficult recovery..

Joan took a break from training to care for Pearl, but she never gave up on her Olympic dream. She continued to train when she could, fitting in workouts around Pearl’s therapy appointments and hospital stays..

In 2016, Joan qualified for the U.S. Olympic marathon team. She was the oldest woman on the team at 40 years old, but she was also one of the most experienced and resilient..

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