Connie Johnson, business office coordinator at Good Samaritan Society – Jackson in Minnesota, had never missed a mammogram in her life until COVID-19. She urges others to keep up on their mammogram screenings.
“I have breast cancer in my family,” said Johnson. “My mother had cancer in the same breast as me. My grandmother also had breast cancer, though she was never diagnosed, and her aunt had breast cancer, so I have always made sure to get my breast screening every year.
“But for the first time ever, I didn’t get my mammogram due to COVID-19. Then, I noticed something in my left breast that appeared overnight, so I went in for a mammogram as soon as I could. That’s when they sent me to Sioux Falls for a second mammogram and ultrasound.”
Since her screening in March 2021, Johnson has had a long treatment journey. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in April and completed chemotherapy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, over the next few months.
“Chemotherapy kicked its butt,” said Johnson. “My tumor went from over four-and-a-half inches before surgery to 1.25 millimeters after chemotherapy. To give you an idea, that’s the tip of your pen — teeny tiny in comparison — which was very uplifting.”
Once finished with chemotherapy, Johnson had a bilateral mastectomy in September 2021, before starting radiation therapy five days a week for five weeks in October.
“It takes an hour and a half for me to travel to Sioux Falls, so I asked my doctor if I could continue treatment in Worthington,” said Johnson. “With colder weather coming, I knew there would be times when I wouldn’t be able to make it to Sioux Falls.”
By receiving care at the Sanford Worthington Cancer Center in Worthington, Minnesota, Johnson could see the exact same providers but closer to where she lives and works — an option also available to other cancer patients living in and around the Worthington area.
“Now, I only have a half-hour drive,” said Johnson. “They’re very accommodating with my schedule. I can have treatment and then go right back to work.”
Whether starting cancer care in Worthington or transitions part of the way through, the Sanford Worthington Cancer Center can provide both medical and radiation oncology treatments close to home.
“I have had the dream team,” she explained. “When getting radiation, I saw Dr. (Ryan) Nowak in Worthington, and he’s excellent — so caring — and answers all your questions. I also had three radiation nurses who are the absolute sweetest. They’re saints!”
Johnson is currently receiving antiestrogen therapy in the infusion center at the Sanford Worthington Medical Center.
“It is really nice. You have a private room. They serve you meals. And the nurses in the infusion center are absolutely wonderful,” said Johnson.
“I’m finally on the downhill run of my treatment,” she continued. “If I could give any advice, it would be to go to Sanford Health. Don’t hesitate. Get anything checked — no matter how small it is — because you never know what it is, and it’s better if you catch breast cancer early.”
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- Five breast cancer screening options