We are grateful for those who share our belief that no one should face breast cancer alone. This commitment to Helping Women Now is the reason many of our corporate partners are passionate about supporting NBCF’s
programs. One of those partners, Le-Vel, sent us the beautiful story of Raquel Johnson who turned her own breast cancer journey into a way to motivate and encourage others to pursue early detection, practice healthy habits, and hold on to hope:
Raquel was 41 years old when a knee injury during the winter of 2011 sent her to the doctor. While there, her doctor mentioned that she was five months late for her annual mammogram appointment and urged her to schedule it. That mammogram, followed by a biopsy and an MRI, confirmed the worst: a diagnosis of Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma, which had spread to her lymph nodes. Her children were in 2nd, 5th and 8th grades at the time, and telling them her news was one of the hardest moments of her life.
She began a three-year journey to treat her disease with a double mastectomy, followed by four months of chemotherapy and then daily radiation, which left her with severe burns. “Radiation was the worst part,” Raquel says. “It was exhausting.” Raquel, a kindergarten teacher, would go to her radiation treatments before school each day. Thankfully, she was surrounded with a large and loving network of support: her fellow schoolteachers, husband, children, parents, sister and in-laws. In fact, another teacher at Raquel’s school had also recently received her own breast cancer diagnosis. They shared the same doctor and went through their recovery together, comparing notes and encouraging one another.
Raquel’s recovery gave her time to reflect on her life. The biggest lesson she learned through her experience, she says, is to “Appreciate every day. Value your health. You always think you’re invincible. But mammograms and self-exams are so important. And you’ve got to take care of yourself with supplements, nutrition and exercise.”
Today, Raquel serves as a Pink Ribbon Mentor for Join the Journey, a program offered by NBCF’s partner hospital, Mayo Clinic. As a survivor mentor, she tells newly diagnosed patients, “There is an end in sight. Life will change, but this doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I’m a living example of that. Don’t give up. Be kind to yourself. There will be days that you feel sad. Give yourself permission to grieve. Surround yourself with family. There’s always something better around the corner.”
Following her breast cancer treatments, Raquel discovered Le-Vel and now speaks at the company’s breast cancer awareness events as both an independent Brand Promoter and a survivor, while offering hope and support to women at every stage of the journey.
Thank you, Raquel, for inspiring us and those you meet with your story of hope. We are grateful Le-Vel chose to generously support NBCF during Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the second consecutive year. With their help, we are closer to our goal of making early detection, education and supportive resources available to every woman who needs them.