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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Local woman remains positive during cancer battle

  • When learning she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, Vanessa Johnston hung up on the person providing the biopsy results.
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  • When learning she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, Vanessa Johnston hung up on the person providing the biopsy results.
    "I just hung up on her," Johnston said. "I didn't want to hear that."
    But despite that initial shock, Johnston said she has kept a positive attitude during her treatments, and the Leavenworth woman has been cancer free for more than two months.
    "I beat breast cancer," she said. "I didn't let it beat me."
    Johnston, 43, said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in March. She had been having an itch in one of her breasts, which she said felt like a mosquito bite. She later found a lump during a self exam.
    She then had a mammogram and biopsy.
    After hanging up upon learning the bad news March 11, Johnston received a call back. The woman asked her if she was OK.
    Johnston had six rounds of chemotherapy, never getting getting sick from the treatments.
    She attributes her positive attitude to her lack of nausea.
    "I didn't let myself get down," she said.
    She said her faith in God has grown stronger.
    Johnston said she won't say she didn't have rough days. She thought she was going to go crazy when she learned she had cancer. And she said losing her hair was upsetting.
    Being unable to return to her job as a teacher's assistant at West Intermediate School also was difficult, she said. She now works as a receptionist at Earl M. Lawson Elementary School.
    Johnston said she made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy because cancer can spread from one breast to the other.
    "I just didn't want to go through it again," she said.
    She will continue to have what she referred to as maintenance chemotherapy treatment every three weeks for a year. And she will be taking medication for 10 years.
    "The main journey is over," she said.
    As someone who's been through the experience, Johnston encourages women to do self exams and take problems seriously.
    And she said people have to stay positive even though she acknowledges "cancer is a horrifying word."
    "I always tell everyone, 'I'm walking testimony,'" she said.
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