Two years past diagnosis, cancer patient celebrates survivorship, urges screenings

Two years past diagnosis, cancer patient celebrates survivorship, urges screenings
Updated: Sep. 29, 2022 at 9:55 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Two years past a life-changing diagnoses, Jodi Sturgeon is glad visits with her oncologist, Dr. Brandon Weckbaugh at Stormont Vail Cancer Center, bring more smiles than treatment strategizing.

“I’m doing great,” Jodi said during a recent visit. “I’m so excited to be able to say there’s no evidence of cancer. It’s really neat for me to be able to tell somebody I’m a breast cancer survivor; my mother was a breast cancer survivor.”

Dr. Weckbaugh said you can’t help but be encouraged when patients like Jodi visit.

“Whenever we have a patient who is doing well and not only surviving but thriving over a number of years, that is one of the best parts of doing what we do,” he said.

Jodi is evidence of how far cancer treatment has come. A new report from the American Association for Cancer Research found 18 million cancer survivors living in the U.S. as of January 2022. In 1971, there only 3 million. It also found, for all cancers combined, the five-year survival rate has increased from 49 percent in the mid-70s, to nearly 70 percent from 2011 to 2017.

“The state of the science is always changing,” Dr. Weckbaugh said. “On a continual basis we always get new drugs that are approved, new reasons to give older treatments where we found more benefit in a different situation.”

But Jodi also knows how far we have to go. While the past year brought her a new grandchild, she also lost her father to lung cancer.

“(My treatment) gave me a way to connect with him. It gave me a way to say I understand the scare, the fright, the not knowing what tomorrow’s gonna bring,” she said.

Jodi credits her tomorrow’s to early detection. Her cancer was found through a routine screening mammogram. She underwent a double mastectomy and radiation, but did not need chemotherapy.

“Life expectancy, the likelihood of relapse of the cancer - all the things are better when they’re detected in earlier stages,” Dr. Weckbaugh said.

Jodi said she tells everyone to get their mammograms and do their self checks.

“It’s too important not to do it,” she said.

With cancer behind her, she’s ready for whatever comes next.

“This is not the end of my story. It is just one chapter in my life story,” she said. “There is so much more out there to live for. There’s so much more out there to strive for, and to find enjoyment in. Don’t let cancer beat you.”

You can help ensure women in the Shawnee Co. area have access to mammograms for early detection with the annual Race Against Breast Cancer 5K run/walk. It’s 9 a.m. Saturday, Oc.t. 1 at Reynolds Lodge at Lake Shawnee. Find complete details and register at