|Johnie Sue the Nurse (This picture was given to me by Johnie Sue)
Johnie Sue Reinhard, a survivor of two bouts of cancer, is my hero, because of her constant positive attitude, will to live, and the refusal to be beaten by anything life throws her way. She is a survivor, and one of the greatest women I know. I have known this woman for about five years now and have seen her go through much personal trauma. She is a great inspiration to all women who may be facing breast cancer, by her sheer will to survive.
Standing five-feet, seven-inches tall, with short brown hair, and a touch of grey peeking out from the curls, Johnie Sue has blue eyes like two big crystal pools of water. Eyes that when looked into, tell a story from her soul. Her tanned face looks a little weathered, and her smile reminds me of a child’s joy the first time they see the lights, or hear the background music of a carnival. Her chest scars are heavy with the reminder of another time, and yet the heart remains pure and unscarred. Courage, strength, and her will to survive, were the motivation she had to step in the ring and battle the toughest opponent she had ever faced. She was willing to accept that this was just one battle of many to come. It reminds me of having a stand-off with the biggest bear alive.
Johnie Sue first learned of her cancer in 1990 during an examination. She was told she had lobular breast cancer, which was mirrored in both breasts. The cure involved the removal of both breasts, and then heavy rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, followed by reconstructive surgery. When I asked her how she felt when she heard the words “breast cancer,” she smiled at me and said, “I guess I won’t need to buy bras anymore.” A second round of cancer landed her right back in the cycle of surgery, radiation, and chemo. Yet, throughout all this hardship, she rarely lost hope or gave in to the physical discomfort. She pushed through and refused to let cancer rule, or, for the most part, even change her life.
One of Johnie Sue’s main loves in life is gardening. Bringing life from death is her specialty, not only in the patients she attends to as a nurse, but also the vegetables and flowers she gently and compassionately brings to life each spring. Working in her garden or yard gives her joy, and a release from any of the stresses of life. Even when she was taking cancer treatments and could barely walk from her house to the garden, she still made the trek with remarkable endurance. Neighbors saw her countless times force her way to the garden, and then have to lean on her hoe for several minutes to regain her strength – strength that was sapped by the treatments. Yet she persevered, and gave hope and encouragement to all who knew her. It was this tenacity for life, and marked determination not to give in that helped her beat the beast (cancer), and is also what inspires everyone who is privileged to know her.
Johnie Sue is currently a nurse at Methodist Hospital in Kentucky. She still enjoys her work, and continues to educate people every day, by listening, and genuinely caring about what tragedy they may be going through in their life. She has been in remission now for seven years, and does not take life for granted. She says, “Live every day as though it was your greatest day alive.”
There are few people in life, that when you meet them for the first time, you just know you have been blessed by God. Well, Johnie Sue Reinhard is one of those people. If you ever get the chance to be graced by her presence, consider yourself lucky. I sure do.