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Giovanna Watson (1976-2019)

A woman who dedicated her life after a cancer diagnosis to help others fight the disease has died.

Giovanna Watson, who was 42, died on Saturday after a more than four-year battle against colon cancer.

Patrina “Powergirl” O'Connor, a radio host and close friend of Ms Watson's, said yesterday: “She was my guardian angel.

“No matter what she was going through, she was always looking out for me and others,” Ms O'Connor said. “She helped me through some really tough times in my life and for that I will be for ever grateful.”

Ms O'Connor said the way that Ms Watson had made public her illness and battle against it so that she could encourage people and families touched by cancer “had never been done before” in Bermuda.

She added: “She wanted to educate people and help them understand what it was to have and to deal with cancer.

“I believe she inspired a lot of people. I think she inspired people to be strong, to be encouraged to continue to live their lives.

“She travelled, she lived her life, she still danced salsa. She didn't let it define her life at all. She had cancer, cancer didn't have her.”

Ms Watson, who worked at insurance firm Arch Capital, wrote Dear Cancer, Let Me Introduce Myself, which was published in 2017, which detailed her battle.

She was the Bermuda Relay for Life anticancer charity Purple Couch Ambassador in 2016 and one of just 37 people honoured with the Global Relay for Life Hero of Hope award last year.

Ms Watson was just 38 when doctors broke the news in early 2014 that she had the disease, but told The Royal Gazette a few months later she was a fighter — not a victim. She added: “People hear the ‘c' word and automatically think death. But life goes on — it has to.

“I want people to see what I am going through and through it all I'm still me.

“I don't want cancer to define me, to change who I am.”

Ms Watson, who said she was told she was the youngest person in Bermuda to have colon cancer diagnosed, decided to hold an announcement party and to share her battle to help others.

She added: “I had an announcement party and documented everything. I put a lot of time into taking pictures and recording everything.

“That was important to me because you always hear of people talking about their experience after the fact and not during and especially not from someone who is so young with a type of cancer that applies to both men and women. My thought was ‘this is all new to me, so why not all of us learn together what it's like together?'”

Big-hearted Ms Watson, a keen dancer, donated money raised by salsa dancer friends at Latin Vibes Bermuda to Kamala Smith, who died aged 33 in 2016 of leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of smooth muscle cells found in her uterus, and to the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre.

Friends of Ms Watson left messages on her Facebook page at the weekend.

Yanique Miller wrote: “You were a star that sparkled brighter than most, we will miss you and love you always. My heart goes out to your family. Rest in Peace, love.”

Wanda Watson added: “Words are so inadequate right now because now you have left us to move forward in life no matter what it brings.

“And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance ... I hope you dance. Gone too soon.”

UPDATE: This article was amended to correct Giovanna Watson's age

An inspiration: Giovanna Watson at the launch of her book about her journey with cancer (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published May 06, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated May 06, 2019 at 11:20 am)

Giovanna Watson (1976-2019)

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