Joni Rogers-Kante is the founder and CEO of SeneGence, which she started in 1999. She now oversees the company’s operations and more than 200 employees worldwide. Joni was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer. This is her story in her own words.
I have been an advocate for regular annual health and wellness checkups since my early 30s. Along with these checkups, my family’s routine includes an aggressive diet of a variety of nutritional supplements, and aging and longevity screenings, including blood work, wearables for daily monitoring and full body and organ scans of all sorts. We also get screened for different types of cancers.
In June of 2017, I received news from an employee I have worked very closely with for over 20 years that she had just been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Karen has been a part of our company’s history and growth, and we have developed a synergy and rhythm to working together that is unique, productive and genuine.
Karen candidly kept me updated on her treatment plan and prognosis. She had a lumpectomy that September to remove two tumors and began chemotherapy in October. I was in awe watching her.
Karen came to work every single day during chemo. She did not miss a single beat in her workload. Karen’s attitude reminded me so much of my beloved grandmother who died of metastatic breast cancer and not once did she complain or feel sorry for herself. The good news is Karen had a clear path to recovery, as she caught it early and today’s medicine has made great strides since the days my grandmother passed.
As Karen began chemo treatments, my husband Ben and I had just completed our annual aging and longevity checkups and assessments. The week following the assessments, my husband received his clean bill of health. However, my results were not included. We waited a few days before I called the doctor to check on my results. I remember he said, “You need to sit down.”
That’s when I received shocking and unexpected news. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. My results showed I had what was considered stage 0. Seven enlarged cells in a cluster had not yet grown together to form a tumor. An MRI confirmed that these cells were pre-cancerous and without treatment, the abnormal cells could progress to invasive cancer over time. I was in shock.
My family helped research and consult with various doctors and surgeons on my best course of treatment. Most of the options took the approach of “we can do this and hope it works and the cancer does not progress.” I remember my mind was calm. I had no fear of this disease despite watching my grandmother fade away from this ailment. I reflected on the many days of watching Karen recover from her surgery and start her chemotherapy.
I chose to have a double mastectomy because of my focus on overall long-term health and longevity. Since I have a family history of breast cancer, we didn’t want to take any chances of having the cancer return in years to come.
While the mastectomy was a success and, over the past five years, I have shown no signs of recurrence, the process of my breast reconstruction for a chest frame of my size has been much more of a challenge. I had several infections, skin impairments, sizing issues, implant displacements and fluid swellings, which have caused me to have multiple surgeries and re-construction.
Like Karen, I’ve kept moving forward through all of this. During this period, my work has continued to keep me busy – public engagements, presentations, photo shoots, conference key notes and I’ve done it with no breasts, small breasts, large breasts and uneven breasts, with and without drains. What I discovered through this is that self-confidence not only comes from how you look on the outside, but what you bring to the table through your heart, soul and mind.
Cancer doesn’t define me; it is now a part of my story. It has become a part of me that can give others encouragement, bravery and hope that all will be fine, and a very good life can still be lived every day. A prognosis of cancer isn’t always doom and gloom, it can in some ways be an opportunity to support, share, learn and become a better version of yourself, both mentally and physically.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.