Photo by Les Stukenberg.
Originally Published: October 9, 2016 10:42 a.m.
PRESCOTT – Years ago, Jodi Padgett appeared in a cover story in Prescott Woman magazine. The cover included the phrase, “I’m the one in eight women…” who will develop breast cancer each year in the U.S.
That statistic hasn’t really changed over the past eight years, but Jodi is still around and she’s cancer-free.
The road from diagnosis to treatment was bumpy, perhaps bumpier than it would be now.
Jodi, now 54, was healthy and active at 45, when she found a lump.
“I had just had a mammogram, and it was clear,” Jodi said. “And so I called my gynecologist back and told her, and she said, ‘You’re fine. We just did the tests.’”
Jodi wasn’t as confident, though, and so she had another mammogram.
It came back clear, too.
“I begged to get something more, because I could still feel it. I could see it, actually.”
The doctor agreed to do an ultrasound.
It came back clear.
Another doctor did an MRI exam on Jodi.
It came back clear.
That doctor told Jodi, “’I don’t know what you’re doing here,’” she said, and he went on to say he’d been practicing for 30 years and, if she had cancer, she’d be the first person to have cancer that didn’t show up on scans.
“He said, ‘Come back in six months.’”
All of Jodi’s family works in the medical field, except her. (“The sight of blood will make me faint.”) One sister, who works at Yavapai Regional Medical Center, talked with a doctor there about Jodi’s situation.
“He said, ‘A woman’s got to know. Let’s get her in, let’s do a biopsy.’”
The next day, she went in and was biopsied.
She had breast cancer.
“I found the lump in June … I had the biopsy in August. And it had already doubled in size and actually went into my lymph nodes.”
Jodi said they didn’t even have time to work over options for treatment.
“I didn’t have a choice. It was chemo, surgery, more chemo and radiation.”
She said she wasn’t told she’d lose her hair from the chemotherapy, and that, even more than the loss of her breast, affected her self-image.
“My sister, Jamie, and my best friend, Fiona, planned to come out to my place…and we would have celebration of cutting my hair,” and then she donated it to Locks of Love, a charity that makes wigs for children.
Her hair “was my identity,” she said. “I didn’t want to appear sick.”
And the hair grew back, about the same as before.
Jodi’s a single mom, and her son, Jake, was not comfortable with the idea of his mom having cancer.
“Being a child of divorce is hard, and then when I was diagnosed, he was 15,” and he didn’t want to be seen with her.
He had usually insisted that Jodi drop him off at the door to his school. But that changed.
“Even if I was wearing my wig or whatever, he would say, ‘Mom just drop me off here,’ and it would be two or three blocks away.”
One day, Jake had to drive her to a chemo treatment, and once he saw her treatment, “it changed his life.
“I don’t think he knew what I was going through,” Jodi said, tearing up. “We became very close ever since then.”
Her mother had colon cancer, and, oddly, the doctor did her mom’s final chemo treatment the same day as Jodi’s first.
Since then, Jodi has been cancer free, and, she said, her life has become very rewarding. She lives in a home in Skull Valley with a vineyard, and is a partner at a Prescott financial firm, where she’s worked since 1983.
“I have a good strong network of family and friends,” she said. “I’m pretty strongheaded, too.”
Oh, and she’s growing out her hair to have it cut for Locks of Love again.
“But this time, I’m doing it on my own terms,” she said with a smile.