Survivor Series: A Warrior’s Fight!

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and again in 2017. Due to my sister being diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age, I faithfully did my mammograms yearly. In February of 1999, after doing my self-exam, I found what I thought might be a lump. I made an appointment with my doctor and had a mammogram ultrasound done. I walked back over to my job at Emory Main, advising my manager that I needed to have a biopsy done. She wouldn’t let me leave by myself. My supervisor accompanied me back to the Emory Clinic where a biopsy was performed. Once the biopsy was completed, I was told to wait. The results of the biopsy came back positive for breast cancer.

Once hearing the words, “You have breast cancer,” I couldn’t cry or even get angry, I just knew I had two small children and a husband that needed me. I had no choice but to fight! I called my husband and told him the test results. He asked if I was okay, and if I needed him to come pick me up and I said no. My supervisor also offered to take me home. I also said no. I knew I needed some time to process what the doctor told me and what the next steps would be. The drive home from DeKalb to Butts County that normally takes an hour seemed like an eternity. After getting home and talking with my husband, he reassured me that everything was going to be okay and we were going to fight this fight together. I had rounds of chemotherapy, lost my hair, went through radiation and lumpectomy surgery.

Fast forward to March 2017, I had a routine mammogram, and they diagnosed me with breast cancer in the same breast. Again, determined not to give up and with the support of my loving husband, kids, family, friends and co-workers, I decided to fight! I had genetic testing done and found out that I didn’t have the gene. I made an appointment with the surgeon who performed my lumpectomy. After 18 years, he still remembered me! He gave me good news and bad news. The good news was that I didn’t have to have chemotherapy, as I already had radiation on that side in 1999 and couldn’t do it again. The bad news was I needed a mastectomy to remove the infected breast. My mastectomy was scheduled for May 2017. I wasn’t nervous, I was just ready to keep living. A lot of people who have a mastectomy choose to have reconstruction surgery. I’m happy the way I am. I am a living breathing testimony of how awesome God truly is!

Throughout my fight with breast cancer I had a great support system from my husband, kids, family, co-workers and friends. Before taking time off to have my surgery, my assistant director had t-shirts made in my honor that said “Tackle Breast Cancer” and asked that all Patient Financial Service department staff wear them on my last day of work.

Even while I was in recovery, I continued to receive letters, cards, phone calls, prayers and words of encouragement. Most of all I thank God for giving me the strength to fight and the will not to give up. I believe my faith and the support I received truly helped me get through the process and keep my positive outlook on life.

My advice to everyone out there is EARLY DETECTION IS KEY! It is also imperative to keep a positive attitude and positive people around you at all times to encourage and keep you lifted in prayer. I am a two-time breast cancer survivor, who fought a warrior’s fight!”

 Tondlei Casey-Johnson, Emory Healthcare. To share your story, anonymously or not, visit bit.ly/PTCpink