Johnsie Tipton lost both her parents to cancer: her mother had colon cancer and her father had bone and prostate cancer. So when her employer offered cancer insurance from Colonial Life as part of its employee benefit package, she didn’t hesitate to sign up.
Still, even with her family history — and insurance coverage that would pay a wellness benefit for a screening test — she delayed having a colonoscopy exam to screen for colorectal cancer until she turned 63 last year.
“I put off the test because I thought I was Miss Healthy, taking vitamins and supplements and everything,” said Johnsie, who lives, ironically, in Colon, North Carolina. “I had some symptoms but I’d always had a sensitive stomach, so I didn’t think much about it.”
The American Cancer Society this year released updated guidelines for colorectal cancer screenings, advising people at average risk to begin screenings at age 45. People at higher risk — like Johnsie — should talk with their doctor about screening earlier.
“The test was literally a lifesaver. It revealed several tumors, “one so big it was almost through the intestinal wall,” she said.
Within weeks she was in the hospital undergoing surgery, followed by chemotherapy. But her ordeal wasn’t over: The cancer emerged on the outside of her body, prompting more surgery. A year later, she’s still receiving regular chemotherapy and doesn’t have an end date yet.
One thing she hasn’t had to worry about is paying her extensive medical bills.
The cancer insurance was a Godsend,” Johnsie said. “I don’t know what I would do without this coverage. I only had to pay my health insurance deductible and everything else has been covered.”
Johnsie was out of work for four months last year but is now back full-time at her job in advertising for the Pilot Newspaper in Southern Pines, North Carolina. She’s also active in a cancer survivor support group through her local medical center, where she shares her positive attitude. “I really try to lift other people up and shine a little light of love.”
She also credits her husband and caregiver, Dean, and her faith for keeping her on the road to recovery.
“It’s been a journey through God. If he didn’t put me on my feet every day, I wouldn’t make it.”