Johnnie was your typical 19 year-old from Fresno, California. She’d just started college & her first job. She’d been sick with a cold that continued to persist; eventually she went to the doctor. During their visit, her doctor noticed a lump on her neck & began blood work immediately.
She saw some specialists following & knew there was some suspicion of cancer. It wasn’t confirmed until after her first surgery, which included removal of a lymph node from her neck. Johnnie was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkins Lymphoma shortly after. She says learning of her diagnosis was surreal, all she could think was that she had to go to work the following day… She wasn’t as emotional about it initially as her family & friends were. It took her a little longer to really process the full situation.
Her treatment plan was long & intense lasting about a year & a half, including eight rounds of ABVD, 3 cycles of Ice, 3 cycles of Brentuximab vedotin & 5/6 rounds of BEAM followed by an autologous stem-cell transplant. She was poked daily, had chemotherapy bi-weekly, PET scans monthly & made the trip to Sanford to meet with specialists twice a month. As she says, a definite change to her “normal”.
Physically, she became very weak & unable to enjoy the daily things she normally did, like walking in the mall. It was difficult for her, she’d become nauseous & short of breath quickly. Mentally, she began to question her ability to get through it all in one piece.
Emotionally, Johnnie began to fall into slight depression… It was hard having the life she’d worked so hard for taken from her so suddenly, just as it was beginning. She went from a busy life, keeping up with school & work to having to be home every day, going to constant doctor appointments.
Johnnie was thankful to everyone in her life who was so supportive. They wanted to go with her to chemo & doctor visits or just check in to see how she was doing. Her family played a major role in getting her to chemo & pushing her to do the stem cell transplant that she needed.
She also says, as random as it may seem, the superstar Beyonce was a huge part of her battle. She found confidence in her music & motivation to be like this woman, who is so strong & powerful. It was then she began using the hashtag #StillBeonce on Instagram. Her oncologist & medical staff treated her like royalty, even greeting her as Beyonce. They treated her with amazing care & she is forever grateful for all they did to help ease her through such a difficult time.
Johnnie has learned something that I also truly embraced through my treatments as well. The importance of remembering that everything is temporary. She learned through every chemo cycle that she would feel terrible for a few days, but would be back to “normal” soon. When going through cancer treatment, your “normal” becomes a very different version than before.
Johnnie wants to share her story to show that you can make it through treatment & start a new life. She says when she was first diagnosed, she didn’t know what to expect & didn’t know anyone who was going through the same thing. She turned to Instagram & found a community with just that. She wants to be that person for someone else, to share as much information as possible to make their battle a bit easier.
Johnnie is coming up now on one whole year cancer free!