Beating Breast Cancer



Jo Johnson had no interest in mortality statistics when doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer five years ago. All she knew was that she intended to fight hard and defeat it, regardless of the odds.

Johnson has been the district services coordinator for County Supervisor Ron Christensen since 1991.


To help find a cure for breast cancer, Gila County employees Jo Johnson and Cindy Shafe have been selling baked goods and raffle tickets outside the county office complex at 714 S. Beeline Highway, every Friday morning, and will do so until the Shoot for the Cure event Oct. 24. Municipal Court Judge Ronnie McDaniel bought raffle tickets to support the cause.

"My oncologist was going to give percentages," Johnson said. "I know a lot of people like to have that information, but I didn't want it. I was just going to do the program and I was going to survive."

Five years later, and cancer free, Johnson along with Gila County Health Department office manager Cindy Shafe, are leading the charge to raise money for breast cancer research with the 3rd Annual Shoot for the Cure, Friday, Oct. 24.

"The Board of Supervisors decided to support this particular foundation because we've had several employees who have been diagnosed with breast cancer," Johnson said. "They wanted to do something to help -- to find a cure."

Just last year, Gila County Supervisor Cruz Salas' administrative assistant, Teresa Ortega, lost her battle with breast cancer in her 30s.

"I had no risk factors whatsoever," Johnson said. "I had my kids early and nursed them both until they were 10 months. There was no cancer in my family and I was pretty healthy. That's why everyone needs to have a mammogram.

"Early detection is really the key," Johnson said. "Make sure you do self-exams every month and go have your mammogram -- don't be afraid, just do something."

Both Johnson and Shafe say it's important that women be their own advocate when it comes to health.

"The bottom line is that you have to look out for yourself," Shafe said. "You can't expect the doctor to do it for you. It's your body, your health -- you have the right to ask questions. If you don't like your doctor, find another that you're more comfortable with. Just having information and educating yourself can really calm your fears. Just because you have a lump, doesn't mean you have cancer and just because you have cancer, doesn't mean you're going to die."

Shafe's aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been cancer-free for 20 years.

"She's living a thriving life," Shafe said. "She's a very positive person and a positive outlook does influence your health."

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was created in memory of Komen 20 years ago, who succumbed to breast cancer at a very young age.

The foundation now nationally known and sponsors several Race for the Cure runs.

"The Komen Foundation has put more money into research than any other foundation we were able to find," Johnson said.

According to research done by the foundation, they recommend the ‘Komen's Three-Step Approach' to breast health:

  • Beginning at age 20, become familiar with the look and feel of your breasts through monthly breast self-examinations.
  • Undergo a clinical breast examination by a health care provider at least every three years starting at age 20 and annually after age 40.
  • Schedule an annual screening mammogram beginning at age 40. Women under 40 with either a family history of breast cancer or other concerns about personal risk should consult with a health care provider about a risk assessment and when to begin mammography.

Healthy habits may prevent breast cancer

Sept. 10, 2003, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported results from another study addressing breast cancer risk.

  • ncreased physical activity, such as brisk walking, reduced the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women by 18 percent or more. Walking briskly for 10 hours or more a week reduced the risk even further.
  • Women in the group with the lowest body mass index, less than 24.1 had a greater risk reduction than women in the middle-range of 24.1 to 28.4.

The Komen Foundation believes this evidence, along with earlier studies that suggest reducing obesity and managing dietary fat intake, may reduce breast cancer risk.

"Studies are showing that eating a lot of dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and adding flaxseed to your diet can help prevent breast cancer," Johnson said.

The Komen Foundation, Johnson and Shafe encourage women to take charge of their present and future health.

"We will have tables of information and educational materials," Johnson said, "as well as our mobile mammography unit."

The Mobile On-site Mammography (MOM) unit will be parked in the County Complex all day during the event, which goes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Those interested in getting a mammogram can call (800) 285-0272 to schedule an appointment.

"They just request that you bring your insurance card with you," Shafe said. "If you are on AHCCCS, your doctor can refer you to the MOM Unit. Anyone with questions about insurance or about the process can call the 800 number."

"The hardest part is not knowing," Johnson said.

"Denial is a powerful thing," Shafe said. "Women need to remember that statistically, the chances are low that they have a malignancy -- it's like 95 percent of lumps are fibrocystic or fatty tumors."

Yet, Johnson is a testament to the many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and beat it.

"I have decided that I am just not going through that again," Johnson said. "Every morning, I wake up and say, ‘cancer free, that's me.'"

Third Annual Shoot for the Cure

Fun activities at the Shoot for the Cure

  • ntertainment
  • ood & Beverage: Machaca Green Chile Burros with secret sauce and refried beans, Pepsi wagon.
  • oop Shoot Contest
  • all toss for the wee ones
  • ard sale, book sale, bake sale
  • ewelry and arts

Raffle Prizes

The Shoot for the Cure event will be raffling off several baskets.

The Winter Wonderland Basket: Christmas items and a turkey

The Lookin' Good Basket: Compliments of Backstreet Salon - Gift certificates for a haircut and style and a manicure, and a variety of hair products and lotion.

The ‘Take me away' Basket: Lots of beauty products along with gift certificates from the Backstreet Salon for a mini-facial, haircut and style and manicure.

The Essentials Basket: Packed full of everything a household needs.

Family Night Basket: Full of food, fun, games and movies.

Tool Man Basket: Just what the fixer-upper needs.

The ‘It's a guy thing' Basket: Metal toys by Empire. This basket has die-cast scale model replicas of tractors, loaders and backhoes.

Sports Basket: Perfect for the sports fan -- Two nights at the Hilton in Phoenix, game tickets and memorabilia.

Craig Counsell Baseball: A Diamondbacks fans dream -- signed and authenticated.

Raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5 and will be sold at the event, as well as the bake sales, every Friday leading up to the event at the Gila County Complex parking lot.

For more information, call Jo Johnson at (928) 474-2029 or Cindy Shafe at (928) 474-1210.

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