In March of 2014, Rebekah Johnson was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. Like with most new cancer patients, her diagnosis rapidly turned her life upside down. As a wife and stay-at-home mom of three teenagers, Rebekah enjoyed traveling with her family, spending time with friends and being involved with her church and community. Then, suddenly, Rebekah was undergoing painful biopsies and tests. Although she worked hard to remain positive while regaining her health, overall, her medical journey was extremely stressful.
Fortunately, in January of 2017, Rebekah began treatment with a new physician at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center. “The Cancer Center was a gift of hope,” says Rebekah. “I was treated with courtesy and respect by every team member at Orlando Health.”
Rebekah, now 52 years old, has defiantly fought against breast cancer for more than six years. Throughout that time, she’s continued to raise her children with all the love and support a mom could offer. Parker, 24, is in his second year of law school; Hunter, 22, is now a Naval officer living in Charleston; and Dakota, 15, loves boating and spending time with friends at the beach.
Over time, in the midst of numerous procedures and treatment protocols, Rebekah’s cancer continued to spread – to her bones, her skin and now, to her brain. Despite aggressive care, including whole brain radiation, her treatment options have come to an end. However, Rebekah’s joy for life has not diminished. Her family and friends find inspiration in Rebekah on a daily basis. A friend, Pam, explains her as “extremely giving and compassionate” as she continues to think of others during this time and her positivity defies her medical experiences.
This is not to say that Rebekah is never worried, or downright scared. Whole brain radiation was terrifying, but the caregivers at the cancer center helped to make it better. Nurses sang to her to keep her entertained and helped to keep her comfortable while making her laugh at the same time. “There was almost a sense of sadness when I had to leave them,” says Rebekah.
“Whenever I was in the hospital, all of the nutrition and housekeeping women were amazing - such jovial and fun conversations! One of my fondest memories is a very content, smiling housekeeping employee. I was so impressed with her! My husband Steve is 60 years old, and this young lady was approximately the same age. She was a great-grandmother to one and another one on the way! Sharing family stories with my care team was always a favorite part of visits to Orlando Health,” shares Rebekah.
Over the course of hospital visits, Rebekah developed close relationships with oncologists, nurses, lab workers, receptionists and more. And who could not? Staff played 80’s music and danced for her, visited her on their own days off and brought gifts and made a point to raise her spirits, all while fighting her cancer alongside her – always looking for the most advanced treatment protocols or clinical trials available for her.
“Although there are no longer existing treatments open for me, I always remain hopeful for new medical options, as well as when God will heal me,” says Rebekah. During this time, she continues to think of others in the same compassionate way she always has. Desiring the best possible outcomes for other patients, Rebekah has asked to share her story with readers in hopes it will inspire donations to Orlando Health, especially for other patients facing the challenges of a cancer diagnosis.
“I have been incredibly blessed. Not only throughout my life with my husband and children and loved ones, but also during my cancer journey with Orlando Health. Everyone, from physicians and nurses, to the lab technicians and food service workers, have been so genuinely caring. I want for others in our community to receive this same level of care and help to sustain and even improve the resources offered to patients. It would mean so much to me if people donated whatever amount they could to help support the hospital.”
To make a donation in honor of Rebekah, please visit Give.OrlandoHealth.com/RebekahJohnson or send a check payable to Orlando Health Foundation to our office at 3160 Southgate Commerce Blvd., Suite 50, Orlando, FL 32806 (please add “Rebekah Johnson” to the memo line).
Rebekah would like to give special thanks to the following caregivers:
Alon Chow, PharmD
Garrett Drango, BSN
Tomas Dvorak, MD
Stephanie Feliberti, RN
Patrice Gorman, RN
Jennifer Lee-White, CMA
Colleen Phillips, RT
Naren Ramakrishna, MD
Regan Rostorfer, MD
Jonathan Santizo, PharmD
Jessica Schofield, RN
Eigan Smith, RN
Charlotte Thomas, RT(T)
Miles Wiseman, RN
Hollie Zammit, RD, LD/N
2020 Gratitude Report
This year’s Gratitude Report serves to highlight and thank the many wonderful people and organizations that generously provide needed funds to Orlando Health. In it, you will read the stories of how our corporate partners, patients, donors and volunteers leave a lasting mark on every aspect of Orlando Health.