When Ginger Johnson tells her breast cancer story, she can legitimately call it a “scary” time. It was Halloween day, actually, and while she didn’t intend to bring real fear to her family’s Halloween party, her diagnosis on that day certainly did. In the same breath, she revealed to them that she was 5 months pregnant – her fitness-instructor body had kept the fact hidden – and so they began to wonder, what would breast cancer mean for both Ginger and her baby?
Cancer was not on the radar
“Cancer was not on my radar. It’s something that I never had imagined could happen to me,” she recalls, “especially being so young.” Ginger was only 31 at the time of her first diagnosis – she was a busy mom of two little ones already, with a job in the health and fitness industry. Because she was not aware of any history of breast cancer in her family, her test results were a big shock and “a complete life shift,” she says.
When she felt something different in her right breast, she assumed it was due to the pregnancy, as many women would, because we’re often told that breasts do change during pregnancy. But thankfully, she asked her doctors about it and the cancer was discovered fairly early.
Mastectomy and chemotherapy – with the birth of a son in between
Ginger chose to split her treatment up to protect the life of her baby. She started with a mastectomy at 6 months pregnant, then delivered a healthy baby boy at full term. After that, some additional surgeries took place and then she started a year-long chemotherapy course.
What got her through all of the physical and emotional turmoil? “Talking with other survivors to give me some insight,” she says. “I don’t think, though, that anyone can really prepare you for the effects that you’ll have, because everybody is so unique and some people tolerate chemotherapy better than others.”
Making chemo a little happier
One of her first chemo experiences was the catapult for her future as a “Miracle Chaser,” which is what it now says on her business card (really). She had noticed that in the world of cancer treatment – the infusion room – “everyone was sick, no one was happy,” and she set about to make a change.
Put simply, Ginger wanted to do something nice for her fellow chemo patients. So she solicited donations from local businesses. And then, at her third chemo treatment, Ginger went into the chemo suite, got hooked up to the infusion, and stood up to address the other fifteen or so patients in the suite. She said she was proud of them for fighting the disease, and she sang a song. Walking around the room, dragging her infusion pole, she handed out little prizes to each patient, saying “Happy Chemo.”
Ginger had completely changed the atmosphere in the suite. The patients talked to each other, laughed, and shared their stories. “It touched my heart to see it,” Ginger says. People started to call her the Happy Chemo girl.
She has continued to build on that success, starting HappyChemo.com shortly after, an online network of freebies and discounts for cancer patients and survivors; she later served as president of Get Screened Utah, a grassroots movement to increase health screenings in her home state; and has edited and published Utah Cancer Connections magazine.
There’s much more to this breast cancer story
Enormous life lessons from her cancer experiences – she was diagnosed with metastatic disease at age 40 – and from learning to live her life again moved Ginger to want to help other women in similar situations. She is an ambassador not only for Amoena, but for women learning to heal from whatever brings them difficulty. “My outlook on life has changed drastically,” Ginger shares. “Now I’m a lot more purposeful about what I do. When life is in jeopardy, you start to really think more clearly about what it is that you value most. I really have a bigger desire now to help other women be able to overcome in their own personal ways.”
Ginger works directly with cancer survivors through her Survivor Soul Conference – an event whose aim is to give women Permission to Live. Ginger’s positive character, her never-quit determination, and her generous spirit are the perfect combination for her work as an entrepreneur, life coach and international speaker. In 2018 she gave a moving TedX talk, and she continues to forge new paths for herself, helping others find their way in the process.
Ginger shares her experience with Amoena
We invite you to watch the entire interview where Ginger goes in-depth about her breast cancer journey, her alternative cancer treatment experiences, coming to terms with her changed body and her personal outlook on healing her soul.
Cancer helped Ginger see where she wanted her life to go. That’s not to say that she’s glad she had the disease. “Cancer’s not the gift,” asserts Ginger. The question is what you do with your experiences. “You can choose to build yourself up or you can choose to be bitter,” she says. “It’s the opportunity to transform that’s the blessing.”We are thrilled to announce that Ginger is now the new face of the Amoena campaign “The Day I Was Told” – a website full of information and personal stories from breast cancer survivors, to support women through every step of their breast cancer journey, from initial diagnosis, through treatment, to recovery and beyond.
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