The finale of our Relay for Life feature series is here and as many have said, the cure for cancer is one of the most anticipated medical breakthroughs, the day when the ultimate fight will officially end. This week’s final story focuses on a local woman who won the fight against breast cancer, a journey, she reflects, as being thankful for.
In April 2014, Donna Johnson went for a routine mammogram. After the results showed an abnormality in her left breast, doctors immediately scheduled her for an ultrasound.
A couple days before her ultrasound, Johnson happened to run her hand down her side and felt a lump in her right breast. The ultrasound of both breasts and later biopsy confirmed that she had stage three breast cancer.
Johnson was referred to Dr. Montgomery in Lexington who scheduled surgery in May where doctors took out the tumor and three lymph nodes. After the lymph nodes came back positive for cancer, Johnson underwent a second surgery on May 29 where 19 other lymph nodes were removed. Johnson then started chemotherapy treatment on July 3.
“They call it (the first four rounds of chemotherapy) the red devil. It’s a rough one…Really, after the first treatment, I started losing my hair,” said Johnson, who then went for one treatment a week from September to December. In January 2015, she started 30 total treatments of radiation.
“Since then, I’ve been blessed that I’ve been clean. I go back now every six months instead of every three. I had one little scare a couple years ago but it was nothing,” recalled Johnson. “The Lord took care of that.”
Johnson said that while cancer impacts a lot of people, each person’s fight looks different. She recalls never being extremely sick during chemo and radiation:
“I did get tired, but I never had the nausea. Everybody just had a special hand in it and the Lord made it smooth all the way through.”
Along with her team of doctors and God, Johnson said she wouldn’t have made it through her fight without the help of family, friends and her church. In fact, with all of the combined help, Johnson never felt scared, but rather looks back on the journey as a blessing.
“I was blessed all the way around. The Lord’s truly blessed me through all of this,” said Johnson. “Cancer is a scary word to people but it seems like I was never scared. The Lord just took all of that away…You meet people and just give fellowship through it.”
This May will mark four years that Johnson has been cancer-free, but she still has lasting complications from her fight, including nerve damage from one of the chemotherapy drugs.
In an effort to give back and remember those who have fought cancer, Johnson and her church, New Bethel Missionary, decided to get involved in Relay For Life last year, creating their own team and raising money for the cause.
“We had a wonderful year last year so this year, we just thought we’d do it again,” said Johnson.
To see teams such as Johnson’s and help them fundraise and remember those who are fighting, have won their fight or lost their lives to cancer, visit the Relay For Life event this year on April 27 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Court Square.
Reporter’s note: thank you to everyone who has participated in and contributed to this feature series.