Joan Helson knows how to kick butt! BIG TIME.
In 2008, at the age of 43, Joan had to put a little of her independence on the back burner as family members gathered around to support her in her battle with cancer. They were there, every step of the way. Her husband…at every appointment, treatment, test and operation. Her parents, siblings, in-laws, children and friends…all ready to step in and do whatever needed to be done. Joan’s journey was definitely not a lonely one and by the time 2010 rolled around, she was the “poster child” for the Bust A Move fundraiser that featured Richard Simmons…an event that raised over $1M for the Breast Health Clinic at the IWK!
For as long as she can remember, Joan has been kicking butt. As a young girl, she spent most of her childhood in Halifax exploring outdoors, playing guitar, writing music and being involved in everything from local theatre to various sports teams. At eighteen, the same year her dreams of becoming an astronaut ended when she was hit by a drunk driver, she moved to Ontario to attend the University of Western Ontario…graduating with a BA (Hons) in psychology and a BA in Humanities. Joan worked in Ontario in various teaching, writing and research analyst positions. In 1992, she wrote a book on corporate ethics for a Toronto-based consultancy, and enjoyed a cross-Canada tour to promote her book that became a Canadian best seller! Joan met and married her husband Eric and in 1994, the couple moved back to Nova Scotia to start a family.
Joan is both Mom and friend to her two daughters, Katherine (21) and Aleisha (20). With just eleven and a half months between them, the girls are quite close…attending St. Mary’s University together. Joan is quick to tell about their artistic talents (that she swears they got from her mother), as both girls are wonderful writers and fans of Japanese anime/manga and anime-based video games…a love they share with their mom.
While raising children, Joan was the VP for female hockey for the Dartmouth Whalers, has coached junior varsity basketball, has been involved in music and songwriting projects and sat on the board of the Nova Scotia Songwriter’s Association, and has been actively involved in volunteer activities surrounding women’s education and health. It is no wonder that in 2013, Joan Helson was honoured with the Progress Women of Excellence award for contributions to the community in the area of health, sport and wellness.
It may seem as if Joan wouldn’t have time for anything else, however, Joan works not one but TWO jobs! Joan is the lead technical writer and QA specialist at Pelican Engineering…a small locally owned company with a fantastic staff. Along with her technical work, ten years ago, Joan began Sisu Women’s Self Defence teaching private group workshops along with on-site corporate training where once again, she proves her ability to kick butt! Sisu coaches women about safety, self-esteem and being your own superhero…and Joan Helson is practicing what she preaches. At the moment, Joan is getting ready to test for a 4th degree black belt!
So, how does the family manage with such a busy Mom? Joan and her family are a team. Eric and the girls share in the household chores…making up for Joan’s shortcomings as a domestic goddess! And, as Joan points out, “They say dull women have immaculate houses. I wouldn’t want to give anyone the impression I was boring.” Ali is the cook in the family and loves to make things from scratch. Katie is a great help with laundry and cleaning. All jump in to help one another out and share in the responsibilities.
Togetherness, is a great part of their family dynamic and while the Helson family spend a great deal of time with one another at home…they also manage to take it on the road at least once a year for a bit of a getaway. Plus, now that the kids are older, Eric and Joan fit in a few extra trips together. Both love to camp and are motorcycle enthusiasts, so a few road trips as well as visits to Florida, Toronto or Arizona to spend time with family…and the odd trip to the Caribbean when they can….and the Helson’s are enjoying every moment they can with one another.
With work, family time and couple time…Joan still finds time for herself. While not a morning person, Joan gets things rolling with a much-needed cup of coffee or two before starting her day. In amongst the busy…she does her best to find a little time for herself. As Joan so eloquently says, “a lot of people forget that self-care isn’t a luxury – it is an act of survival.” Whether it’s a hot bath or a walk in the woods, a bit of time on the treadmill, martial arts training or time spent playing her guitar…“me” time is necessary to refresh Joan’s spirit.
Joan embraces the idea that whatever she’s doing, is only worth doing if it makes her happy. Her parents are believers in trying new things (at 74, her dad just published his first book and her Mom has started taking art lessons) and have passed that idea on to their daughter who in turn, is passing it down to hers. “I’ve kind of stopped bothering with plans for what I should be doing with my life, except to plan for my morning coffee and some time for gratitude,” she said.
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About Joan’s car:
Joan is driving her second KIA Soul. The first (2010) was an orange (“Lava”) 5 speed. When her daughters started driving, they weren’t as fond of the manual transmission as Joan so she purchased a new 2013. Joan is thrilled with her shiny red Soul that has tons of room for all of the gear she needs to carry for seminars…plus, loading and unloading the car is super easy. Joan’s girls are quite smitten with the car and she’s thinking they’ll eventually purchase it and she can move on to a new one! Joan spends a lot of time driving around the Maritimes for training sessions…it’s great on gas, easy to park, fun to drive…and, it fit’s her 6’ frame with tons of headroom to spare!
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