Norton Healthcare employee and two-time cancer survivor shares the power of teamwork at Bike to Beat Cancer

A physical therapist assistant at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital considers it her mission to support others who are battling cancer.

When it comes to fighting cancer, Claudia Johnson knows the power of being surrounded by a good team. The physical therapist assistant at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital beat cancer — twice — and knows how tough and scary the journey can be for anyone who is going through it. Now, it’s Claudia’s mission to help others who are battling the disease, whether it’s at work or through fundraisers like Bike to Beat Cancer.

Last year was the 58-year-old’s first year participating in the event. Her team, Claudia’s Crushing Cancer Crew, raised more than $2,500 to help find a cure, and she is gearing up for her second Bike to Beat Cancer ride this September.

As a two-time cancer survivor, it was overwhelming to be a part of the event’s survivor’s parade. In 2015, Claudia had melanoma. Then, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 2021. It was the same year she first signed up for Bike to Beat Cancer — but her cancer diagnosis derailed those plans. Less than two years later, she was back in the ride as a survivor, healthy and overwhelmed with emotions.

“I’m not a big emotional person, but I just cried,” Claudia said. “It was amazing: the feeling that you made it, and you’re there helping other people that are coming after you. And what a difference it can make, every little bit does.”

In her job at the hospital, Claudia provides physical therapy for patients, and while she works with all types of people, she often finds herself assisting cancer patients on the oncology floor.

“I try to be someone who is there for people, especially those who don’t have support or family. I’ve been with people in the room when a doctor told them they have cancer that can never be cured,” she said.

In addition to guiding patients through their physical therapy treatment plans, Claudia tries to be a calm and supportive voice. She remembers what it was like to feel shocked and scared during her own cancer experience.

“I had to get four surgeries on my face to remove the skin cancer,” Claudia said. “After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I needed surgery, plus six months of treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation.”

Bike to Beat Cancer

Sept. 7, 2024, at Norton Cancer Institute – Brownsboro

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According to Claudia, she was able to remain positive during her cancer journey by relying on God, her husband, Gary, and a solid group of family, close friends and her oncology team at Norton Cancer Institute. The support she received underlies her personal mission of being there for others, especially those who face similar battles.

Fighting cancer “is something you do with others — not by yourself. Especially for me, it was hard accepting help when you’re always the one building people up,” Claudia said. “It’s important to allow others to help you.”

Claudia just finished a yearlong doctorate-level certification as a precursor to launching her own business as a life coach. She plans her first group sessions to be with cancer survivors. 

For this year’s Bike to Beat Cancer, Claudia plans to do either a 15-mile or 35-mile ride. During her ride, she will rely on the support of her team, just like she did during her cancer treatment. Her goal is to cross the finish line — not only for herself, but for other cancer survivors and patients.

“The whole theme of the [ride] is what it’s going to take to try and find a cure,” she said. “It’s all about working together and relying on other people.”

Because fighting cancer takes a team. And finding a cure for cancer takes an even bigger team, a community, and a lot of hope. But with the support of others, anything is possible. Even the toughest challenges.

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