Breast cancer wasn’t a terribly frightening experience for Joanne Hamilton.

In 2006, the Stillwater retiree went in for a mammogram, got a call from her doctor, went into surgery and had a very quick recovery period.

All done in Stillwater. They caught it quickly. Because of a specific medication she was already taking, she didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy.

She knows her experience isn’t what a lot of women go through after getting that diagnosis. She remembered something another doctor had told her years ago following a surgery in Oklahoma.

“When I left, the doctor said to me, ‘you are so lucky to have good insurance. You can just walk out of here.’ That sort of stuck with me,” Hamilton said. “It started me thinking, ‘I am lucky.’ Not everybody is this lucky. It just sort of evolved from that.”

So, she decided to help those women and their families who might struggle through the process. That led her to donating to the Stillwater Medical Foundation, some money here and there, that will help women who might not be able to fully afford the medical care.

The Stillwater Medical Foundation has revealed Hamilton as an “angel donor,” who recently committed $50,000 to create an endowment for breast cancer patients. She had already financially helped more than 30 women.

Now 92, Hamilton and her husband Ralph moved to Stillwater in 1973 when he took a job as OSU’s directer of public relations. She has had a catering business, served on the Stillwater Public Library board and volunteered with the Elderly Nutrition Site and St. Andrews Thrift Store. She and Ralph also raised three children, Beth, Meg and Drew. It was Drew who suggested that Joanne might want to consider leaving something to the Foundation.

“Joanne’s faithful generosity and desire to assist so many women financially struggling with breast cancer is truly heart-warming,” Stillwater Medical Denise Webber said. “The fact that she has done this anonymously for so long, and now over 90 years young, is willing to share her story is a testament to her experience and her passion to inspire us all to support each other, women’s health and Stillwater Medical.”

Hamilton said she also hopes the gift, and her namesake, will make people aware of the kind of help and hope they can offer those less fortunate.

“With limited or no health insurance the financial impact can also be a difficult recovery,” Stillwater Cancer Center clinic manager Vicki Branstetter said. “She has already been an unexpected angel for 34 women whom she’s never met. As a nurse, having cared for these women, words cannot adequately express their gratitude for her generous support.”

Stillwater Medical VP of Community Engagement Scott Petty told Hamilton about how the business office and cancer center staff told him they feel like they “get to play Santa Claus,” when they are able to tell a patient about one of Hamilton’s gifts to help with the bill.

“Whenever I do something for someone that I think really helps them, I just feel so good,” Hamilton said.

Petty has asked if anyone is willing to talk about Hamilton’s financial support patient testimony, even anonymously, to call him at 405-742-5387. Those interested in learning more about the foundation can visit www.smc-foundation.org.

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