Community rallies for Westerly couple after wife diagnosed with rare cancer

Danielle Joubert dressed her daughter, Claire, in a big sister shirt to announce the news. She and her husband Daniel Joubert were expecting their second child.

But the excitement quickly dissipated. In early February, the couple, who live in Westerly, were with close friends and family on vacation in Florida when Danielle started feeling ill. She attributed the symptoms — back pain, nausea, cramping — to being pregnant.

When her symptoms worsened, she went to the emergency room. That's when she found out she had cancer. She was diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, a rare, fast-growing cancer that occurs in a woman's uterus. The cancer resulted from Danielle's pregnancy about nine months earlier when cells from the placenta became cancerous and metastasized into her liver, lungs and pancreas, her husband said.

"The excitement we thought was new life turned out to be a false positive," Daniel Joubert, an engineer at Electric Boat, said in a post on a GoFundMe page he created on March 3 to help cover the cost of his wife's treatment, child care for 9-month-old Claire, and the logistics of ensuring someone is by Danielle's side "to be her advocate."

As of Friday afternoon, more than $83,000 had been raised.

"I am at a loss for words with the support we received," Joubert said Friday afternoon. "It is truly remarkable. People constantly tell me how helpless they feel and they provide help by praying, sending positive vibes and donating. I would never have expected it to become what it is. We are just so grateful for everyone's love."

Danielle has begun chemotherapy, but she is very weak, tired and is fighting infection.

"She has a very long road to full recovery. We are hopeful the chemotherapy is making a difference. Praying and remaining optimistic is all we can do," Daniel said.

Daniel and Danielle, a physical therapist, have not been working since arriving in Florida, and are not able to return home given Danielle's condition. Daniel and Danielle's parents have been making the two-hour drive from her parents' home in Jupiter, Fla., to Miami daily to be with her.

Daniel described his wife as outgoing and passionate about her job. She loves to travel and socialize, he said.

"I've realized through all this the large amount of friends she has. She always finds a way to stay in touch with all of them," he said.

He and Danielle love to take Claire to the beach. Just days before Danielle went to the emergency room, she swam with Claire in a pool for the first time. While in the hospital, major milestones have passed including Claire taking her first steps and Danielle's 30th birthday.

"The goal is to get her back home and throw her a huge party," close friend Andrew Gencarelli said by phone Thursday night.

Gencarelli, 34, of Westerly, an engineer at EB, went to college with Dan and started a fundraiser among EB employees for the family. He estimated he's raised $10,000 so far.

"Some know Dan and many don't," he said of those who've contributed. Others, including Dan's brother Seth, have stepped up to watch over their house while they're in Florida.

Gencarelli and his wife Abby live down the street from the Jouberts and were on vacation in Florida with them. They were in each other's wedding parties, and the couples had kids just days apart.

"We're basically growing up together," Gencarelli said.

His wife, Abby, 29, said Danielle has been there for her in life moments both big and small. The two usually talk every day. She's even received messages from Danielle while in the hospital. On Thursday, she conveyed this to Abby: "She just asked everyone to pray. She's going to fight this, and she misses being home."

A fundraiser is planned for April 10 at the Malted Barley in Westerly from 6 to 8 p.m. Cost is $10 to attend.

j.bergman@theday.com

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