Denver Water saved my life

One employee’s personal account of battling breast cancer.

October 12, 2016 | By: Travis Thompson
Jodi and her 3-year-old German shepherd, Abby, spend most Saturdays bringing some relief and joy to patients at Saint Joseph Hospital as a pet therapy team.
Jodi and her 3-year-old German shepherd, Abby, spend most Saturdays bringing some relief and joy to patients at Saint Joseph Hospital as a pet therapy team.

This could have been a tale of tragedy. Instead, Denver Water’s Jodi Johnson is sharing her encouraging story, with a simple message: Get your health screenings. It could save your life.

Johnson’s tale begins in spring of 2014, when she was instructed by her doctor to get her annual mammography. As a strong, healthy woman in her 50s, with no indication of medical concerns, it was not something that she ran out to schedule.

Later that year, Denver Water hosted its annual visit from the Saint Joseph mobile mammography van, offering a convenient way for Jodi to check this task off the list.

“I spent the day joking with my co-workers about getting this type of exam while at work,” Johnson said laughing.

In less than 30 minutes she was back in the office with hardly a blip in her schedule. The screening quickly became such a distant memory that she ignored several calls from an unknown number, never thinking it could be the radiologist.

“Finally I gave in and answered,” Johnson recalled. “They wanted me to come in for some more tests, but I figured no biggie, test results always come back OK. Right?”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Jodi was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, commonly referred to as DCIS, a very early-stage cancer that is highly treatable.

In the blink of an eye, she was working with surgeons and counselors on a plan to become cancer-free.  It was an emotional time for Johnson, but strangely, her test results brought her anxiety level down and her reassurance up.

“Everyone I dealt with through this process was so positive. They would say how excited they were for me that we found it so early,” said Johnson. “Not what you would expect when dealing with cancer.”

To schedule a mobile mammography van event, click here. Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph Hospital.
To schedule a mobile mammography van event, click here. (Courtesy Saint Joseph Hospital)

On Feb. 4, 2015 — coincidentally, World Cancer Day — Johnson had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. The surgeon joked that it was the smallest cancer in history.

Thanks to the early detection and treatment, Jodi is now cancer-free.

The experience has Johnson feeling indebted. “I’m forever grateful of Denver Water’s wellness program, which made early detection possible, Saint Joseph’s for the great care and all of those who supported me through this difficult time — especially my kids.”

So, as a way to “pay it back,” Johnson has been working with Human-Animal Bond in Colorado to train her beloved German Shepard, Abby, as a therapy dog to visit hospitals and help people in similar situations.

“I’ve been bringing Abby to the same area I was in and tell patients that I was once in that same chair,” Johnson said with a smile. “If my story can help others, I’m happy.”

Saint Joseph Hospital stresses the importance of early detection, stating, “mammograms detect changes in a woman’s breast health well before an abnormal mass can be felt, but the average five-year survival rate for women who are diagnosed and treated early is 98 percent (where breast cancer is detected in its earliest stages).”

As a happy 98-percenter, Johnson wants to remind us that without the simple step of getting her health screening, she would be telling a very different story right now.

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