Vicki Johnson, a recent breast cancer survivor, is quite literally a walking billboard for early detection. As a former nurse and current sales rep for medical supplier and distributor Medline Industries, Inc., Vicki has long been comfortable discussing medical issues. However, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer this past December following a self-detected lump, Vicki made it her mission to encourage other women to be proactive with their breast health.
Vicki was an OR nurse for 25 years before making a career change to sales in 2003. Since her husband is also a nurse, they decided to put a positive spin on her diagnosis, calling it a “clinical adventure.” Vicki kept working and maintained her sense of humor throughout her breast cancer experience. During our interview, she chuckled, recalling how her doctor advised a lumpectomy was not an option since she had very little breast tissue to begin with. Humor aside, because Vicki’s Stage 1B breast cancer was detected so early, thanks in large part to her proactive approach to breast self-exams, she was able to bypass radiation. Her tumor was removed through mastectomy, but she received chemo as a precaution. Vicki also made the best of her chemo-induced baldhead by creating a series of “chemoticons,” designed to mimic popular emojis, including this thumbs-up pose:
When she wasn’t posing bald, she often wore a cheerful pink wig, which was a great conversation starter about her condition and early detection. In hallways, on elevators and even at meetings, she reminded friends and strangers alike to schedule their mammograms and do their breast self-exams. Although she was diagnosed at age 56 with no family history of breast cancer, Vicki was screened for BRCA1 & BRCA2 genetic mutations because her grandmother had ovarian cancer. She was very relieved, especially for her daughter’s sake, that she tested negative for both.
Thank you, Vicki, for helping spread the good news that with early detection, breast cancer survival rates are better than ever. Like Vicki, let’s all strive to be a billboard for early detection.
We thank Medline for their recent 5K walk/run in honor of Vicki, which raised incremental funds for NBCF. Medline has partnered with NBCF for several years to raise awareness of breast cancer and has donated more than $1.6 million in support of Helping Women Now.