Lifting mishap helps save local's life

Twelve years ago, a local resident who did not have any symptoms learned she was diagnosed with cancer.

Sixty-nine-year-old Dianna Johnson spent her career working as a nurse, so she often had labor intensive tasks, such as lifting people in and out of their beds.

“I had hurt my back lifting my dad,” the 1960 Wapakoneta High School graduate said. “I’m a nurse, so I have lifted patients for close to 50 years.”

So Johnson scheduled a visit with her physician and he prescribed pain medications for her back problems. Her back issues continued to be a problem, so her physician decided to do an MRI, and that is where they found a tumor in her kidney.

Johnson, who lives outside of Uniopolis, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma around Christmas 2000.

“I had no symptoms,” Johnson said of this type of cancer.

While Johnson’s back pains had nothing do with the cancer, she said she was glad it prompted physicians to do X-rays of her back because it was while they did these, they found the tumor in her kidney.

“They wanted to do a CAT scan of my lungs, because they thought they saw something there on an MRI, too,” Johnson said, “and I thought, ‘Oh no, I can battle one, but not in two places.’ ”

But there was no cancer found in her lungs, just a tumor on one of her kidneys.

So, Johnson had surgery to have her kidney with the cancerous tumor removed.

“It was all contained in the kidney,” Johnson said. “So they took the whole kidney out, and I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation.”

Johnson considered herself lucky.

“I was extremely fortunate,” Johnson said of her case.

But this whole situation came to Johnson and her family as a surprise.

“My husband (John) turned pale,” Johnson said when he found out. “It was so out of the blue. I didn’t have any symptoms.”

Johnson’s physician said that this type of cancer is typically diagnosed in this way. She went in and had an MRI for an issue she had with one part of her body, and they found a tumor in another spot of the body by looking at the X-ray.

“It’s a scary time,” Johnson said of the experience. “You just hear the word cancer.”

Ever since she was diagnosed with cancer, she has been an avid participant of the Auglaize County Relay for Life.

This year’s event is scheduled for June 22 and 23 at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds.

She was working as a nurse at the Auglaize Family Practice at the time she was going through her diagnosis and surgery, so she joined a team there comprised of co-workers to participate in the event.

“I think cancer has touched just about everyone,” Johnson said. “If you are a survivor and you go and look at that and see that they’ve done it, then so can I.”

What Johnson is referring to is the whole experience of the Relay for Life, including the luminaria ceremony and all the survivors who come together.

“I just think it is a good place to go,” Johnson said. “Especially if you have had cancer or know someone who has cancer. The fellowship is great.

“And if you can raise money for the cause then that’s even better.”