How I Survived Cancer in Prison

By Johnnetha S. Hawthorne

From PHN Issue 43, Summer 2020

My name is Johnnetha S. Hawthorne, and I have had cancer five times in the course of my life. My last bout with cancer was in 2017, while I was incarcerated. This is my story of discovering I had cancer, what helped me through that extremely hard time, and how I survived with help from loved ones. I hope my story encourages others to find their strength and know they can make it and will if they just keep going.

My journey with breast cancer began on May 28, 2017, when I discovered a lump on my right breast while showering. My first reaction was sheer panic. I touched the area repeatedly in disbelief. I met with the nurse and asked her to examine me. She did and was as terrified as I was. I told her about my cancer history, and she immediately contacted the head of the medical department.

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