The Johns :: Profound Experience :: Stoddard Experience :: John Stoddard Cancer Center

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UnityPoint Health - John Stoddard Cancer Center

Loma and Marv Johns

Lorna and Marvin Johns recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with family, friends and loved ones. Together they have endured more than any one person or couple should have to endure in their entire lifetime. But regardless of the health struggles they have faced, they continue to be amazingly positive and are very thankful for the many wonderful years they've had together.  

Lorna and Marvin's cancer journey began in May of 1996 when during a routine medical exam the physician found a lump on Lorna's breast. After further testing, Lorna was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and radiation at John Stoddard Cancer Center to fight the disease.  Lorna's treatment for breast cancer was a success and she was happy for the support she received at Stoddard.

"I remember how kind and helpful everyone was at John Stoddard," said Lorna. "I didn't know what to expect and they helped guide me through treatment every step of the way."

When they thought Lorna's battle with cancer was over, abnormal test results in November 2003 revealed otherwise. 

"A routine blood panel indicated that my iron levels had taken a dive," said Lorna.  "That was when I was told that I had chronic myeloid leukemia." 

Chronic myeloid leukemia, or CML, is a slow-growing type of leukemia in which the body produces an uncontrolled amount of white blood cells.  Lorna was determined to beat cancer again and she turned to John Stoddard Cancer Center for support and treatment. 

"We had gotten through it once before and I knew we would do it again," said Lorna. "We refused to give up and just kept fighting."

The Johns' strength and positive attitude was tested again when in the summer of 2006 Marvin started having pain in his shoulder and upper arm.  Unable to find relief from his pain, doctors ordered X-rays of Marvin's shoulder and back. Results of those X-rays revealed a tumor adjacent to Marvin's fourth vertebra that was later diagnosed as cancer. Again, the Johns' refused to give up and kept fighting.

"Marvin's diagnosis with cancer brought us back to a familiar place," said Lorna. "Once again we turned to the John Stoddard Cancer Stoddard."  

Marvin's treatment for the tumor on his vertebra was going well when something was found that caused a detour in his cancer journey. 

"During the radiation treatments, doctors found a spot on Marvin's lung," said Lorna. "That spot was later diagnosed as non-small cell lung cancer."

Marvin would have to endure chemotherapy treatments for this type of cancer. But the Johns' did not give up and just kept fighting.

After all that Lorna and Marvin had been through, they again couldn't believe the news when in 2008 Lorna began to have a feeling of something heavy in her upper abdomen. After a CT scan Lorna was diagnosed with her third type of cancer, colon cancer. In December 2008 underwent surgery to remove her Stage II colon cancer. 

During their time spent at Stoddard and throughout their battles with multiple cancers, Lorna and Marvin have remained positive and committed to Stoddard. 

"Carol Frazell was my cancer care coordinator and there for me before and after surgery," Lorna said. "It is hard to think of going through this without her."

Still today, Lorna and Marvin are very involved with Stoddard. They had a great experience with the programs offered through Stoddard, such as the care coordinator program and the many support groups. 

"In the 14 years of being a cancer survivor, I've found friends among the staff at John Stoddard," Lorna said.  "This isn't something I wanted, but I have learned to cope and do the best with what I have been given." 

Carol Frazell, RN, BA, OCN, Stoddard care coordinator, believes that the Johns' have had an impact on many cancer patients at Stoddard.

"Lorna and Marv are a wonderful couple and I feel blessed to know them," said Frazell. "They are very inspirational at our support groups and when other survivors hear their story they think 'If they can make it, I know I can get through this and win.'"

Kathy Hunnicutt, RN, BSN, OCN, Oncology Outreach Coordinator, was a big help in motivating the couple to participate in various team events and support groups. Lorna has attended and been an officer of the After Breast Cancer support group since 1996, and together Marvin and Lorna attend the Blood Cancer and Colon Cancer support group and participate as survivors and care givers. 

When Marvin and Lorna aren't enjoying the company of their family and friends, or involved in church activities, they are still involved with Stoddard even after their cancer journey. Outside of their support groups that they both attend, Lorna has coordinated Reach to Recovery volunteer visits for more than ten years for the American Cancer Society, and she does First Connections to other CML patients for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She also still volunteers at Iowa Lutheran Hospital. Marvin is now giving back and volunteers on the Stoddard Adult Oncology Inpatient Unit where he enjoys working with the John Stoddard staff and the patients.