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MU student, 21, dies after battle with rare cancer

Friday, February 22, 2008 | 11:25 a.m. CST; updated 3:33 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Stephanie Joseph, an MU sophomore studying strategic communication, died Thursday of chemotherapy-induced acute leukemia. "Even when she was in pain, she carried on as if nothing was wrong," her brother said.

COLUMBIA — Stephanie Joseph didn’t care to talk about herself or her struggles with cancer. She wanted to hear how her friends and family were doing instead.

When Ms. Joseph was nine years old, doctors diagnosed her with alveolar soft part sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that causes malignant tumors of connective tissue, said her brother, Tom Joseph. The cancer went into remission but came back as she entered her sophomore year of college at MU where she studied strategic communication.

Ms. Joseph died of chemotherapy-induced acute leukemia on Tues., Feb. 19, at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., her brother said. She was 21.

“Even when she was in pain, she carried on as if nothing was wrong,” her brother said. “She really put a bright face on this horrible, horrible disease.”

Ms. Joseph was born on May 30, 1986, in Naperville, Ill. Growing up, she loved to run and ice skate.

Friends remembered her for her love of laughing, hip-hop music, tailgating, football games, ice cream and pokey sticks.

“She didn’t really get caught up in petty things,” said Kate Hodgson, Ms. Joseph’s former roommate and friend. “She was very real.”

Kiara Kincheloe, a friend, remembered Ms. Joseph as spontaneous.

She remembered when Ms. Joseph and friends set up a Slip ‘N Slide in the hallway of Excellence Hall at MU during their freshman year.

“She was really fun and vivacious and just really, despite what was going on her in life, attacked life with such vitality,” Kincheloe said. “She, for me, was the go-to friend if I ever wanted to plan a spontaneous road trip. The two of us together were kind of, just kind of a spontaneous force to be reckoned with. ... I would give anything to have more time to kind of pay her back because she’s given me so much.”

Ashley Clarke, Ms. Joseph’s former roommate, said she will remember her friend as the most positive person she ever met.

“If you didn’t know her well, you’d have no idea anything was going on,” Clarke said. “She was more interested in how everyone else is doing,” Clarke said. “It was never awkward to bring her some place with a bunch of friends and she could jump in with no problem.”

Minutes before Ms. Joseph’s death, her brother said, she was still doing things for others.

“I knew she could hear me because I asked her to move her eyelids,” her brother said. “I said, ‘Look, I’m sorry that it’s come to this. I think you’re holding on because you don’t want to go for us. You don’t have to suffer for us. I know we love each other and that’s what matters.’ And then a few minutes later that was it.”

Ms. Joseph is survived by her parents, Mary and Joseph of Naperville, Ill.; and her brother, 26, of New York.

Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Beidelman-Kunsch Funeral Home in Naperville, Ill.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m., Monday, Feb. 25, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Naperville.


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