“Trust is the channel through which My peace flows through you.” – Sarah Young, Jesus Calling
As you are reading this, my mom, Forsyth Woman Publisher, Keela Johnson has officially completed her radiation treatments for “Breast Cancer 2.0!” Many of you know that Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time in October 2018, after being cancer free for over 12 years. We were extra surprised because she had a double mastectomy in 2007 and the chance for recurring cancer after that surgery is so slim. But when she found the lump, she trusted her female intuition and called the doctor. Sure enough, it was cancerous and in December, Mom went through surgery. Surgery went amazingly well—and recovery was fairly quick.
Fast forward to January 21st. In the middle of making plans for radiation, my dad collapsed from a massive stroke. We thank God that he was inside when it happened, and Mom was able to call 911. They caught it quickly enough for him to receive the TPA medication. His recovery is nothing short of a miracle.
With my dad’s frequent post-stroke physical therapy appointments, and Mom’s radiation treatments, they have been burning up the roads with multiple doctors’ appointments a week. It was a good thing Mom LOVED her radiation oncologist, Dr. Oh, and looked forward to her weekly meetings with him after radiation.
On April 5th, Keela Johnson became another survivor and rang the bell in honor of completing her radiation treatments! We are so proud of her! It has not been an easy journey. The good news is that thanks to a new radiation treatment procedure in which she would hold her breath for 30 – 50 seconds at a time, she is now fully prepared to be a professional scuba diver! Dr. Oh shared, “Deep Inspiratory Breath Hold (DIBH) and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) are the latest technological advancements in radiation therapy. These methods reduce the radiation dose to normal tissues and decrease the probability of late toxicities in the years following radiation.
“As a radiation oncologist,” continued Dr. Oh, “of course we treat cancers, but it is essential that we also think about survivorship or life after cancer. Keela has done great with this, and perhaps all the breath holding she did will translate into a new hobby — diving for lost jewelry in Lake Norman!”
One of Mom’s strategies for getting through her DIBH treatments was to focus on saying a prayer for a different person during each of her 14 daily breath holds. It helped keep her focus in a positive direction and, as a bonus, made the time go faster!
Mom’s faith and positivity throughout this process have been nothing short of amazing to witness. Dealing with having cancer is a huge ordeal in itself, but combined with a few other issues that our family has going on, makes it extra impressive. Not to mention publishing a monthly magazine on top of all of this.
“It has truly been a pleasure caring for Keela and getting to know her and her family during their cancer journey,” said Dr. Oh. “She is a special person to balance her diagnosis and treatment, all while never leaving her husband’s side, and managing her busy career and family.”
Yes, my mom really is a superwoman.
Keela inspires our whole family, her friends, and me daily. I am so proud to be able to call her my mom and my best friend, but also to have the privilege of working with her every day. She remains faithful, trusting in God’s plan even when she may not fully understand it.
Going through something like this has taught our family a few things that I would like to share with you.
- Reach out. Send a quick text or leave a Facebook comment. Don’t question for one second “if they’ll notice,” or “if it even matters.” I can assure you, it does. Every thought and prayer meant so much to my family, and I feel that is true with anyone going through a hardship. A side note to that though is don’t be offended if you don’t get a response. It doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate you reaching out!
- Family is everything. I think we all know this to some degree, but going through the hard stuff makes us appreciate our family (and our friends that feel like family) at a whole new level.
- Trust the plan. It can be really hard to let go of that control, but you have to! We aren’t in control here, but He is. The sooner we learn that the less anxiety and fear-filled our lives will be.
“I do My greatest works through people with grateful, trusting hearts. Rather than planning or evaluating, practice trusting me and thanking Me continually. This is a paradigm shift that will revolutionize your life.” – Sarah Young, Jesus Calling
Keela rang the bell on April 5th! She was surrounded by family and friends, as well her medical team – all who have held her hand throughout this journey. “I am so thankful to everyone,” shared Keela. “I could easily fill every page of this magazine with names of people who have extended kindness, support, and prayers for us as we’ve traveled this road.” Keela has raved about her medical team and with that in mind – a special shout out to the following:
Dr. Phimo Oh was Keela’s radiation oncologist. “I love this man!” Keela exclaimed. “He has walked with me every step of the way, and I’m so thankful to have had access to his compassionate care, expertise, and patience for my millions of questions. I have literally trusted this man with my life, and there aren’t enough words to properly thank him!”
Dr. Douglas Miyazai has been Keela’s OBGYN and friend since the early 1990s. “In fact,” Keela shared,” he delivered my son, Tanner!” Dr. Miyazai diagnosed Keela with breast cancer in 2007 and again in 2018. “While you never want to hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’” said Keela, “you couldn’t ask for a better cheerleader and advocate than Dr. Miyazai!”
Dr. David Carr was Keela’s surgeon in 2007 and again in 2019. “Surgery is always scary,” said Keela. “But Dr. Carr’s care and exceptional attention to detail have been instrumental in this battle. I hope I never need surgery again, but if I do, Dr. Carr is amazing. I would trust him every time.”
Dr. Erin Jepsen is an oncology specialist. “Dr. Epsen has been awesome since Day 1, guiding our family through this process,” said Keela. “She has a way of taking complicated medical words and putting them in laymen’s terms so we could easily understand them. She was not only patient with me, but with my whole family!”
“Several nurses were my lifeline in the middle of all this,” shared Keela. “I have to give special shouts out to Tammy (Dr. Oh’s nurse), April (Dr. Carr’s nurse), and Toni (Dr. Epsen’s nurse). These ladies were bombarded with questions every time we talked! Yet, each one of them were kind, patient, and professional – even when we asked the same thing twice! These women have gifts of kindness that they have well-utilized in their respective roles.”
“Many others gave me exceptional treatment,” said Keela. “I wish I could list everyone, but please know that I am forever grateful for you. I am here today because God has allowed it and has blessed all of you with the skills you needed to take care of me during Breast Cancer 2.0. While I hope and pray I never need this kind of care again, I know if I am – I’m in the right hands – His and yours.”
Beyond her medical team, Keela shared, “Our family, friends, church family, and magazine team have been amazing. They’ve stepped in and helped out in so many ways, and Tim and I are forever indebted to them for their support. Our daughter, Brooke, took on the role of Johnson-family Communicator and kept everyone in the loop through beautifully written updates on our Caring Bridge page! Plus, she’s taken on additional responsibilities with the magazines when my time was limited due to so many doctors’ appointments. I am so blessed to have so many incredible people in my life.”