Jodi Groff cried the day she found out she had breast cancer. After that day, she made a resolution: cancer was not going to dictate her life. It wasn't going to slow her down. She would continue to live on her terms and set forth her own path for recovery.
Most people who know the 41 year-old marketing manager were not surprised by her strong spirit. An avid runner and naturalist, Jodi was confident in her belief that taking care of her body would result in her body fighting for her.
And fight she did.
Click here to hear Jodi’s story in her own words.
The Diagnosis and Jodi’s Entourage
Jodi's first step was to get an accurate diagnosis. A year prior, she was misdiagnosed by a doctor not affiliated with Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine. After receiving news that a follow-up mammogram was suspicious, Jodi immediately scheduled an appointment at the LG Health/Penn Medicine Center for Breast Health. This was based on a recommendation from her sister, Jennifer Groff, Vice President of Development, who also shared that Penn specialists were coming to Lancaster working in collaboration with the doctors in Lancaster. A biopsy revealed her cancer was stage 3 and had spread to her lymph nodes.
"At first I was in a state of shock," says Jodi. I had unexpectedly lost my father four months earlier while he was being treated for leukemia. Then, together, my mom and my sister and I just rallied. They were my support system throughout all of this, accompanying me to all of my appointments—my own entourage!"
The Treatment: Throwing Everything At It
Next, Jodi made appointments at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute to see a breast surgeon and medical oncologist on the same day. The ability to see multiple specialists in the same building is one of the many conveniences there.
"They told me because of the type of cancer I had and the size of the tumor, they would have to throw everything at it: chemo, radiation and a mastectomy (removal of the breast). I was scheduled to start treatment on my 40th birthday and I was ready. I loved all of my doctors. They were well-suited for my personality. They understood what I wanted to do and how I wanted to fight this. They got me."
Because Jodi's tumor was large, chemotherapy was used first to reduce its size. Surgery would be next, then radiation therapy.
"I remember walking into the infusion area and recognizing some of the faces. My Dad had his treatments at the Cancer Institute and was there often—even the week before he died. My Dad was very ornery with an off-color sense of humor, but the nurses there treated him like one of the family. He loved that and we loved them. When they realized I was there for my own treatment, it was very emotional for all of us."
Maintaining Her Own Pace: A Strong Spirit and Support Team
Throughout it all, Jodi kept going at her own pace, even running a 5K during her chemo.
"I actually had my best time ever...33 minutes. I was running three to four miles a few days a week and still working full time. I even got a promotion."
Supporting her throughout all of this was her nurse navigator, who assisted Jodi in scheduling with specialists and accessing support services, such as yoga. Jodi also took advantage of the Cancer Institute's Image Recovery Center to shave her head and be fitted for a wig.
"I had long blond hair down to the middle of my back, so this was traumatic for me, but the staff there helped me through it. I still go back to see them to get my hair cut."
When it came time to schedule her mastectomy, Jodi discussed reconstruction options with her surgeon.
"I had some special circumstances in that I am very thin with low body fat. Also, because I was only having one breast removed, it was important that I have a natural look. The surgery would be complex. Fortunately, LG Health/Penn Medicine offers a sophisticated procedure that gave me the results I was looking for."
Jodi and her mom scheduled an appointment at the Cancer Institute to meet with a Penn Medicine plastic and reconstructive surgeon specializing in the "flap" procedure. Lancaster General Hospital is the only hospital to offer this procedure locally.
"My Penn surgeon did the first part of my surgery at Lancaster General Hospital and I then went down to University of Pennsylvania for the second portion of my surgery. The care I received at both hospitals was excellent. I knew I was in good hands."
Jodi's final surgery was April 5, 2016. Her treatment is now complete.
"I feel good now," says Jodi. She credits some of this to healthy eating through a Paleo diet that cuts out all sugar and focuses on organics.
"There's always a chance of recurrence, but it's a small chance. I'm not one to live my life worrying. You never know what's ahead of you. One day at a time."