Employee Spotlight: A personal journey of surviving breast cancer, raising awareness, and helping others
According to the nonprofit Breastcancer.org, about one in eight women (and one in 883 men) in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their life. Early detection and treatment can often make a significant difference in combatting the disease, so raising awareness is critical.
In recognition of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke with Jodi Jones, who works on Regence’s Regional Network Management team, about her journey surviving breast cancer and the personal lessons she learned along the way. Jodi’s answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Talk to us about your journey with breast cancer.
This experience changed my way of thinking. I took seriously the recommendation for regular screenings and had a baseline screening done when I was 35, along with several others in following years. Every time, it seemed like I got recalled for additional images, which always turned out to be nothing.
At the time, I told myself it was unlikely that I was going to get breast cancer and that if I did, I'd rather not know. I’d also made the decision that I wouldn't go through treatment if I did get it; I wouldn't want to be sick and miserable during the time that I had left. So, I didn’t pursue diagnostics for something like seven years.
It all changed for me in the spring of 2018, when I found a lump in my left breast. I initially assumed it was a cyst and didn't worry about it. Then, towards the end of July, I started to notice additional “shooting pains” that were occurring more frequently and at a higher intensity. After a diagnostic mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy, on Oct. 1, 2018, I received my diagnosis: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Breast cancer.
I was surprised to find that chemo, which I started on Halloween, and mastectomy wasn’t as bad as I had expected. While I was tired, I was not ‘sick’ from chemo. I attribute this to healthy living: eating well, prioritizing sleep and exercise, and letting go of unimportant things. This was only possible through the tremendous support that I received from my family, friends, coworkers, and the Gina Quesenberry Breast Cancer Foundation. The continuous outpouring of support and help received was nothing short of amazing.
During this process, I had to confront myself and change my way of thinking. My preliminary decision to forgo or delay my own care could have impacted the outcome of my life. My thinking was based on fear when I really needed to face my headwinds. It was a truly remarkable year for me, and I do believe that I have grown through the experience.
What did you learn?
I chose to face life with a positive attitude and to not live in fear. I learned to find mental toughness and confront mortality. Our longevity is never known or guaranteed. While we can’t control what happens to us, we can control our attitude. We can choose joy and positivity. I love who I’ve become through this experience, and it does change your thinking.
Now, it’s important for me to help and support others through this process.
Today, you support others through board service with the Gina Quesenberry Breast Cancer Foundation. Tell us more about this.
I was a board member before I got the diagnosis. I met Gina Quesenberry through Regence and Gina’s family created the foundation to keep her memory alive and to assist others with breast cancer.
Each year, we host a Pink Ribbon Luncheon to fundraise and raise awareness around breast cancer education. At our event earlier this month, I had the great honor of telling my story to our guests.
Regence was a sponsor of this year’s event, and our employees have the option to donate to the organization during our annual giving campaign as well as year-round. This increases the power of individuals’ donations through our corporate matching program.
Why is it important to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October?
There is proven science behind the importance of early detection for a good medical outcome and improved treatment options. Currently, one in eight women (about 12%) are at risk to develop breast cancer. This means you are likely to be touched through a friend or relative, if not personally. I've been touched in all these ways and did not expect a diagnosis as I do not have the risk factors or genetic markers.
This was my call to attention and my call to all of you: make it a priority to schedule your mammogram. Get it on the calendar.
Most Regence health plans cover annual in-network preventive mammograms at 100 percent of cost. If you are a Regence member and want to know more about your health plan benefits, log in to your account at regence.com, or call our customer service team to answer questions you may have.