Loved ones held a 50th birthday party for Los Altos resident Joanne Byrne last week, but the guest of honor was not there to celebrate. She died from cancer in 2011 at the age of 47.
Although the outcome of Byrne’s battle leaves friends missing her presence, her vision for providing comfort, care and companionship to single women during cancer treatment has been fulfilled.
To honor her memory, friends and family launched the Joanne Byrne Fund, under the auspices of the Los Altos Community Foundation, during the celebration.
“It was really her dream,” said Byrne’s best friend, Gabrielle Babin of Santa Clara. “She realized that she was lucky to have support. … There are lots of single women without this support.”
During her 2 1/2-year struggle with breast cancer, Byrne sought relief via energy therapy and massage – services not typically covered by insurance.
“The power of touch heals the body as well as the spirit,” said massage therapist Christina Keith, who treated Byrne.
Keith added that the healing therapies benefited Byrne as well as herself.
“I always left feeling better than when I arrived,” she said.
According to Byrne’s sister, Mary Hernandez-Byrne, the fund will call on practitioners and providers who “come highly recommended for their skills but equally for their heart” to identify single women who live or work in Los Altos, Mountain View or Palo Alto and might benefit from the fund.
Grants of $600 enable recipients to choose services such as massage, guided imagery and/or energy therapy that some cancer sufferers believe ease the pain and side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
To alleviate what Hernandez-Byrne described as the “loneliness and stigma of a single person in a couple’s world,” the fund will also support recipients by providing transportation to treatments and appointments.
Donors have already contributed $100,000 to the fund.
“This is by far the most successful (memorial fund) we’ve had,” said Ray Lave, executive director of the Los Altos Community Foundation. “I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, it’s just clear that it’s a great asset.”
To donate to or for more information on the Joanne Byrne Fund, visit losaltoscf.org/joannebyrnefund.