On March 5, 2019, Jodi Carter received a diagnosis that would change her life forever.
At 45 years old, Carter was diagnosed with stage II invasive ductal carcinoma, which is the most common form of breast cancer. The Logan County wife, mother and now grandmother was working as a medical assistant at Logan Mingo Area Mental Health at the time and noticed a suspicious lump in her breast one night after work.
“I was working like 12- and 13-hour shifts and, you know, when you’re working that long every day, you don’t really have that much time to think about yourself, so you don’t do all the necessities that you need to do. You just do what you have to do and go,” Carter said. “So one evening I came home and took my regular shower that I always took when I got off from work, and I was in the shower and that’s when I found the knot on my breast.”
At first, Carter said she didn’t take much alarm to it.
“I didn’t really think much about it,” Carter said. “I don’t know why I overthought it. I can’t explain it, because normally, I’m type of person where I don’t dwell on stuff. If I’m not bleeding or if I’m not running a fever, I don’t worry about myself, if that makes sense.”
A year before, however, Carter had a mammogram that showed an area of her breast that doctors thought was potentially suspicious, but was later ruled out. The lump she discovered was in the same place, so she decided to go get it checked out.
Carter went to Logan Regional Medical Center for an ultrasound and mammogram. LRMC sent her directly to Huntington to have a biopsy performed.
“Three days after my biopsy, they called me in and they told me the news,” Carter said. “My initial feeling was total shock, of course.”
Over the next two years, Carter would endure a multitude of treatments, some of which continue to this day. She had several surgeries, including a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy to prevent estrogen from being produced in her body.
Carter was administered two particularly strong rounds of chemotherapy, the second of which landed her in the hospital with the need for blood transfusions.
“They thought at my age, I would be able to take the strongest chemotherapy, so therefore, normal people go once a week for their chemo, but I went once a month and they gave me like, I guess it was, all four doses at once,” Carter said. “I actually had two strong doses of chemo, and the first chemo treatment I ever had, all of my hair fell out within a week, so that’s how strong it was.”
Carter said she has experienced a wide range of emotions.
“I got through it with grace,” Carter said. “I mean, I did it. It was horrible. There were times I thought, ‘Why me?’ I was in denial. I was angry. I went through an angry stage. You go through so many different emotions that it’s just like a death. It’s just like somebody grieving, you just go through so much when you go through something like this, but all in all, you feel pretty blessed to be able to thrive and get better because some people don’t have that chance. Some people don’t have that option.”
She added that she experienced what she calls “survivor’s remorse,” an emotion by some cancer survivors when they feel their defeat of the disease is unfair to those who have succumbed to it. Carter said she even had to seek some counseling to help.
“I know a lot of people that survive cancer don’t talk about it that much,” Carter said. “I don’t know how many of us are out there, but I had severe survivor’s remorse and sometimes I still do get depressed because I’ve had a few good friends die of breast cancer, and they fought with everything they had in them, and no matter how hard they fought, the beast — I call it the beast, which is what it is — it won, and it’s horrible. It’s horrible, it really is.”
Carter received the bulk of her cancer treatment at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center in Huntington.
Two and a half years after her initial diagnosis, Carter still has to take an aromatase inhibitor, a medication used to stop the production of estrogen in postmenopausal women and hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer patients. Carter will continue to take the pill for three more years.
Carter also goes for check-ups every six months or so and will continue to do so for the next five or six years. Sometimes, she is able to go longer than six months, which she said feels a little more like normal life. Carter’s hair has also grown back.
“Any time I can go longer than six months without a doctor’s appointment, it makes me feel like I’m hitting that normalcy that I’m trying to hit,” Carter said. “All my hair has grown back. Losing was my hair was ... it’s bad, I mean, because I’ve never had a short haircut in my life, and I went from having long hair my whole life to being bald, so that was a big adjustment, but I made it through it, and I persevered through it.”
Carter thanked a large support base, which includes her husband, Matt, children Vivian Short and Ethan and other family and friends for helping her get through her cancer journey.
“He (Matt) went through everything with me, aside from being stuck with needles or having the pain or losing anything,” Carter said. “He felt everything I did, and he was the best caretaker in the world. He helped me through every appointment. My kids were my best cheerleaders. They encouraged me, and all my family and friends. If I hadn’t had the support system I had, I don’t know if I would have made it.”
Carter also attributed her faith in helping her get through her battle.
“There were times I swear I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Carter said. “I prayed, and I asked God to help me get through it, and He did, so I have to give Him the most credit, and I thank Him for letting me have family and friends that were my support system. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
When asked if she has any advice for other women her age, Carter had two things to say: research your family history and get checked if you feel anything is different with your body. She said she had no idea that cancer ran in her family until she had a genetics test.
“My advice to them is find out your family history because I had no clue that I had aunts that had passed away, and people in my family kept their cancer hush-hush,” Carter said, “so therefore, any time I was asked at the doctor if I had cancer that ran in my family, I would say no because nobody discussed it. It was kind of like a hush-hush thing, and I had no clue. My advice is find out your family history and get checked. If you have any type of aunt or distant aunt that had breast cancer, you could be in danger.
“Go with your gut instinct,” Carter said. “If you feel like something is wrong, most of the time it is. Find out your family history. Have your mammograms, have your mammograms, they are so important. If you do get diagnosed, have confidence. You can get through it. You have to just buckle down, have inner confidence, and you can persevere.”
Carter wanted to recognize her friend Jamie Roeher, a Holden resident who succumbed to the same disease in February 2021 at age 38.
“I keep her in my heart because she fought so hard, and I just feel like she needs to be recognized within what I’m talking about here,” Carter said. “I would see her at the cancer center, and her smile just made my day, and she would send me messages of encouragement at her worst. We’re all here to help each other. All bad things aside, when stuff like this happens, any bit of encouragement that you can get from somebody that’s going through it at the same time means so much, and she helped me. She really did. She made me feel a lot calmer when I had to go to my treatments. She would send me an encouraging word and just getting her messages and seeing her smile at the cancer center, it helped me so much. I know her family misses her so much. She was just an angel.”
Carter resides at Mitchell Heights with her husband, Matt. While still undergoing hard treatments in September 2019, her daughter, Vivian, gave birth to her granddaughter, Audrey.
If her cancer were to return, Carter said she’ll put up the fight again.
“I did the best I could,” Carter said. “I fought with everything that I had. I hope it never comes back. If it does, I’ll just have to bring out my sword that I killed the beast with the last time and fight again. That’s about the gist of it. It’s horrible, it’s a horrible disease.”