Chance conversations help save breast cancer patients' lives

Jacksonville mother's diagnosis inspires her to help others

By Melanie Lawson - The Morning Show anchor, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla - CJ Hodge found out she had Stage 2 breast cancer this past July. And while she fights for her life, she has had chance conversations that have helped save two other women.

Breast cancer diagnosis

It was almost six months to the day after Hodge's very first mammogram that she found out she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Months before she was diagnosed, something was sucking the energy from this vibrant and fit mom. She prayed it wasn't cancer, but it was.

Hodge started a rigorous treatment immediately.

"Chemo has been rough. It's been very, very rough. I have good days, I have bad days but, it's been very, very, very rough. I've had every side effect imaginable," said Hodge.

But on her darkest days, she has found light. 

Hodge's 21-year-old daughter, Ty'ra, has been one of her biggest motivations.

"She just she really inspired me. I'm getting emotional right now, sorry. She just really inspires me because she's my heart," said Ty'ra Malloy. "I'm very proud of her. She is my hero."

Inspiring other women

Hodge is inspiring other women to get checked for breast cancer as well.   

Her cousin, Lisa Jackson, was so motivated by her fight, she finally followed up on results from an irregular mammogram.

"We were talking and I heard her, what she was saying. I received a message that this was something that I needed to take care of immediately, and that's why I made the call," said Jackson.

She also touched and motivated a woman very plugged into the breast cancer community who wasn't taking care of her own needs. 

Bernadette Cruz-Toran does free eyebrow tattooing for women who lost hair during chemotherapy.  She never took the time to get her own screenings until Hodge convinced her to see a doctor.

"I've always wanted to know what my God-given purpose is in life, and every time I reached a low point, God kind of revealed to me what my purpose is," Hodge said.

Hodge is persistent, insistent, and aggressive when it comes to her mission.

"I'm going to follow up with you. I'm going to remind you to do these things," she said.

Both Jackson and Cruz-Toran are thankful Hodge did stay on top of them about being checked. Within days of their doctors' visits, it was revealed to both of them -- that just like Hodge -- they had breast cancer, too.

Cruz-Toran is currently getting radiation.

"It's tough, it's really tough. My skin is raw, and it takes a lot of time, but I'm super tired the day after," she said.

Cruz-Toran had to reduce her radiation sessions because they were taking such a toll on her body. 

As for Jackson, her follow-up mammogram uncovered early stage breast cancer.

"Time is of the essence when cancer is involved, so I'm grateful to God and to [Hodge} that it happened sooner rather than later," said Jackson.

The cousins have a reason to celebrate because Jackson is now cancer-free.

"I think for me, to be able to make an impact, I had to go through this, and just to have more impact, and to be able to tell the story and give women compelling reasons to be more proactive," Hodge explained.

Follow Hodge's breast cancer journey

Hodge has one chemo treatment left, but will still need radiation and eventually, surgery.

Her journey is hard, but said she accepts the mission and sees blessings along the way. With strength, beauty and grace, Hodge will not only fight for her life, but for the lives of every woman she touches. 

Another message, and one of the most important points Hodge wants women to walk away with is this: Family history of breast cancer only plays a small part in whether or not you'll develop the disease. Only about five to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary.

If you want to follow CJ Hodge's journey, you can check her out on Instagram and Facebook

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