Women of Charlottesville

Highlighting the unique and diverse amazing women of Charlottesville, VA.

Janey Gioiosa

This is Janey. She makes a mean loaf of bread–and her egg and cheese croissant from MarieBette is, honestly, the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had! Her story is one of courage, strength and resilience. It’s something we all need to hear right now to help remind us we will get through this challenging and difficult time. Her positive perspective and push to keep going through not one but two cancer diagnoses at a very young age is an encouragement anyone who is facing a tough, challenging and uncertain time–as we all very suddenly are. Janey’s story will remind you that can face a tough time and come out stronger on the other side with a new perspective on life. Enjoy and be encouraged!

us: So, Janey, tell us a little bit about yourself…

her: I have lived in the Charlottesville area since I was five years old. My parents moved here to start a winery in Louisa. I recently got married and my husband and I and our dog, Tully, live in Crozet. I have worn many hats in life–baker, fitness instructor, and a forever cancer survivor. I’ve been forced to learn at a young age that nothing is guaranteed–and that’s how I try to live every day of my life.

us: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

I had a smoothie that my husband, Will, made me. He made me a berry Greek yogurt smoothie with all kinds of boujee things that you put in it. And, nice delicious coffee.

us: Does pineapple belong on pizza?

Absolutely not.

us: Do you sleep in your socks?

her: No. Super zero sock policy.

us: What’s your go-to midnight snack?

her: Any cold fruit– but cold grapes and mango are my favorite.

us: Mountains or Beach?

her: Beach

us: Current favorite song?

her: I’m going to do a shameless plug, because my husband is an amazingly talented musician. He wrote a song called “Something to Hold” that is about our relationship. (I’ve linked it to Spotify–but you can also find it on Apple Music and itunes.)

us: Salty or sweet?

her: I like a combination of both–like that chocolate chip cookie when you get that the salt in the back of your throat. That’s everything.

us: Pet peeve?

her: People chewing with their mouths open drives me nuts. Also, when you’re talking to someone and they have an Apple Watch, or they look down on their phone when you’re having a conversation just drives me crazy.

us: Room entrance song:

her: “Brick House” By The Commodores.

us: Favorite place you’ve traveled to?

her: Ireland. My husband and I were just dating. We traveled through Europe for a while. And, then we lived in Ireland for about a month. We got engaged there–it was a really, really special time.

us: What’s your favorite room in your house?

her: I love this nook that we are sitting in–by the fire and the natural light from the window. It’s communal. I can kind of be here–but also have my own space. I love my little corner.

Janey, with the two loves of her life–Tully, her dog and Will, her husband–who happens to be an extremely talented musician and very supportive husband. Their love for each other is truly special to observe!
Tully being adorable.

us: Who has been the most influential woman in your life?

her: My mom. Period. She worked really hard for our family. She had to travel in New York to work for Sony when I was young. She’d work all week and then come back on the weekends. She worked really hard for her family and she sacrificed missing a lot of our moments, so we could have a really beautiful life. Now my parents live in Los Angeles and she’s still working and she’s a badass boss! I just see the way people respect her and look up to her–it’s big shoes to fill. It’s very intimidating, having a mom of such caliber. I’m trying to navigate, trying not to compare myself to her. I’m only 26, but also trying to follow in her footsteps, in that regard, in a very healthy way. She’s my therapist. She’s my mom. She’s my friend. She’s my workout partner. She does it all.

us: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

her: Obvious answer is beating cancer–but I don’t want to say that because that wasn’t a choice. When I compare myself to who I was, you know, early 20s to now, which isn’t that much time but a lot has happened. I’m proud of how I handled the cards that I’ve been dealt. It’s not a particular accomplishment of something that you can see or navigate. I don’t let my diagnosis define me–or use them as a crutch define. And just life in general, I just I’ve liked how I’ve navigated some shitty circumstances. I’ve turned them into something else. I’ve seen, sometimes, where other people they have let it hinder them. It’s all they can talk about and all they can go to. I feel like I’ve been very much have just stayed trucking forward in it in a healthy way.

us: If you could give your younger self a single piece of advice, what would it be?

her: Your inside is way more important than your outside. Stop holding on to every detail of what you look like, and how you are presented. Let’s focus in on what makes you–you–and your core values.

Janey making some of her delicious bread.

us: Can you tell us about a challenge that you’ve overcome?

her: When I was 19, I was diagnosed with a uterine sarcoma, which is a tumor in my uterus. Symptoms were I lost about a third of my blood and a never ending period that brought me to emergency room a few times. I was being misdiagnosed for a while, and long story short, it was cancer. I had six rounds of chemo, a hysterectomy, and some radiation. Navigating that from 19 to 20. It seems like a long time ago–I was like a different person. And, then, coming on the other side and having like a “now what?” moment, you go through that, and I just got back to life–I wanted to be normal again. Which kind of ended up biting me in the butt a little bit a few years on. Not really dealing with everything that I just went through. And, then when I was almost about to be at the five year mark–which they say you are cured after five years of no evidence of disease, I relapsed. I was 24. We were about to go on our trip, and it changed everything–it was a joke, almost comical and very messed up. Mentally it just rocked my world and depleted me of all hope and joy. So I had to overcome a lot of internal enemies. I had to get surgery and radiation, but luckily no chemo. So yeah, so those are two tough things I’ve overcome. You know, it’s very sad, but it is turned into a very, very positive two challenges in my life. They gave me a very unique perspective on life. I know the type of life I would like to lead– or I’m figuring that out. Now I lead with what I want to do–and my joys and passions. So it’s really just brought things into perspective, and I feel very lucky that I’m that I have that has at such a young age.

us: Where do you find your inspiration?

her: The little things every day. Moments with my husband and our dog and just our life together. I don’t have a lot big profound things that inspire me–just more basic things. When I don’t have to be at work in the morning, Will and I will have early morning coffee times where we just sit and talk about the beginnings of our day. Living a life where you can do that– have and those quality times and moments together. Really just taking it back to the basics and the little everyday things that nobody celebrates–that’s what inspires me.

us: Any funny or embarrassing nicknames we should know about?

her: People call me Hurricaney Janey. I have the tendency to walk into a room and just completely blow everything up. I make my presence known–unintentionally, I don’t mean to, but yet somehow it just explodes.

us: Any hidden talents we should know about?

her: I don’t think so . . . My finger never stops cracking–haha. I can sing . . . I don’t really sing anymore but I can sing.

us: What are you most thankful for?

her: My family. Period. It’s the obvious answer but, I have my husband and a brother and my dad and mom. I mean they are everything. They lift me up. I can easily say that’s why I’m still alive and was able to successfully battle cancer. I took my mom and dad for granted for a very long time as a young girl. I was very difficult. So just kind of really taking them in and realizing how precious life is. My family–easily.

“It’s interesting hearing people talk about how they never thought this (Covid-19) could happen to us/them and how life can change in the blink of an eye. When I hear those words my mind goes straight to when I received my cancer diagnosis because that’s exactly what I said. From those phrases in my life I have learned to let go and ride the wave of the unknown, but that wave is huge and scary nonetheless.” Janey via Instagram

us: What is your favorite thing about living in Charlottesville?

her: I love seeing how it’s turned into a kind of a destination place. I grew up here–and we didn’t think much of it one way or another. Friday night as a 12 year old, my friends and I would walk up and down the mall while our parents went to dinner. It’s it’s changed a lot and there are some headaches of all these people coming in and I don’t know if they fully respect exactly what Charlottesville is but I’ve loved seeing it transform. I left for a while and I’ve come back and, and the community that this place is is beautiful. I mean we joke when we go to dinner downtown– let’s count how many times we see people that we know and it’s beautiful and I love the community aspect of Charlottesville. When I got sick, the second time, I used to work for a company called Purvelo –it’s a cycle studio. And, they started a whole campaign for me. And, I didn’t even need it. They raised money just to give me to go get my nails done or go buy myself a treat. It was called “12 Days of Janey” instead of “Twelve Days of Christmas.” They’d just post about my favorite things. And, I got all these letters –and I still have them–this whole box of letters and gifts from people that I haven’t heard from in years and they’re all from here–all from Charlottesville. I was all the way out in Los Angeles, and it just made me realize how beautiful this community is. You don’t get that just anywhere. So, I guess, long story short, the community aspect of this place. This town is unbeatable.

Thank you for your vulnerability and sharing your story, Janey!