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From tragedy to triumph

SURVIVOR: Joan Ible in her kitchen

IT IS hard to believe that a decade ago, doctors gave Birmingham mum, Joan Ible a 50-50 chance of survival after being diagnosed with an agressive form of leukaemia.

Ible was 12 weeks pregnant at the time and already mother of a three-year-old son.

Now she not only seems to glow with health, she is enjoying life as a successful entrepreneur, running a home-based business making rum cakes from genuine Caribbean ingredients. One of her creations has just won a Gold Star at the 2013 Great Taste Awards.

“I want to be in Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges," she says.

Such optimistic confidence doesn’t seem far-fetched; indeed it is what pulled her through one of the toughest times in her life. When she was diagnosed, chemotherapy was the recommended treatment. But that would mean termination of the pregnancy.

“At first I refused to accept what doctors were telling me,” explains Ible, a former telesales executive for Yellow Pages. “I had just had my 12-week scan and my husband and I were so excited about our new baby.

“As a practising Christian the idea of a termination was abhorrent, but then I had to think of Tyge, my son. I didn’t want to die without seeing him grow up.”

Once Joan made that impossible decision, events happened quickly.

Within 48 hours of having the termination, two lines were inserted in her chest and she began a gruelling course of chemotherapy at Heartlands Hospital.

“I remained there for more than seven months, mostly in isolation because of the risk of infection,” added Joan. “I felt like a prisoner. My friends would come and wave to me at a window.


“But everyday my husband Simon would come in with a smile. He’d bring me gossip and news from home. He has been my rock and he’s certainly the best husband in the world! The odd time I was allowed home there would always be a surprise waiting for me – once he had our bedroom redecorated.”

Joan’s mum Rhoda came over from her home in St Thomas, Jamaica to look after Tyge and dad Clifford was also a great source of support.


Joan used her sales training to create a chart in her room to map her progress and an aunt encouraged her to keep a diary. This now provides her with a valuable day-to-day memory of her experience which she plans to turn into a book.

“When I finally came home I had to learn to walk all over again I was so weak. I had nothing in me,” she said. “When Simon helped me go to the end of our road I felt I’d gone to London and back!”

Doctors had warned Joan that all the chemotherapy had probably made her infertile, so that was something she just had to accept.

She was eventually well enough to enjoy a holiday in Spain, but on her return she feared the cancer had returned as she felt sick and unwell.

“It wasn’t until a friend said half jokingly ‘maybe you’re pregnant’ that I dared to buy a pregnancy kit,” she smiles. “I just couldn’t believe it when it was positive.”

Tyge, who is 14, now has two kid brothers – seven year-old Mason and Carter, aged six.

“In hospital I had time to do a lot of thinking about my life,” said Joan. “I wanted a new challenge and I’d always enjoyed baking, so I started making cakes for friends and before I knew it I was making up to 70 a week!”

When she went to a food trade show she called herself ‘the baking housewife.’ Everyone loved the name and now it’s stuck.

The experience Joan built up from her career in sales clearly shows - she has won orders from cleints right across the region.

She is also busy on the farmers’ market circuit across Birmingham and beyond and hopes to grow the business further over the next five years.

“Baking has kept me sane,” she says. “In fact if I can’t bake I feel stifled. It’s helped me to rid myself of all my anxieties since my illness.

“My dream now would be to bake the base for the Christening cake for George, William and Kate’s new baby. Their wedding cake was made by Fiona Cairns who started in her kitchen, like me and since I share the same birthday as George why not?”

Joan Ible can be contacted at or 07913 368199.

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