Retirement interrupted, and a life turned upside down
After a scary breast cancer diagnosis, longtime community leader is on the mend and back on the road to relaxation.
Deborah Circelli Published: 6/27/2017
Hiking the mountains of British Columbia with friends, Connie Hodges embraced all life had to offer.
“The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and every day was a new experience,” Hodges recalled of her trip in the fall of 2016.
And to think, just a year earlier, she was facing the biggest crisis of her life.
In June of 2015, Hodges was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. She had Stage 2/Grade 3 breast cancer. She went through months of chemotherapy and was hospitalized for 10 days with pneumonia.
“It turned my life upside down,” said Hodges, 67. “I was scared, very scared.”
Before her diagnosis, Hodges’ only surgical experience was in the third grade for a tonsillectomy. After three decades working for the United Way of Northeast Florida – and 16 years as its president –she was looking forward to retirement. But life had other plans.
As vulnerable and scared as Hodges felt, she said her care team was by her side every step of the way, beginning with her medical oncologist, Robert A. Zaiden, MD. Her oncology nurse navigator, Peggy Neville, answered all her questions and supported her along the journey.
Hodges went through 14 months of a targeted-therapy infusion, which she finished in November 2016. She now sees Dr. Zaiden for checkups every four months.
Meanwhile, more travel and relaxation awaits. She and her husband are looking forward to a trip to France this summer.
“We look forward to exploring Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, as well as Provence with its culture and picturesque villages,” Hodges said.
She’s also leading a homeless initiative with her church, mentoring young professionals and is a board member of OneJax, an interfaith organization focused on building community to promote respect and understanding that will overcome bias, bigotry and oppression.
“I’m doing well. I have a great professional medical team that supports me with lots of good care and love,” Hodges said.
She’s also now focused more on taking care of herself through exercise and nutrition.
“When you work and have the demands of long days and evening events, it’s difficult to put exercise in your life,” she said. “In many ways, this journey has made me a stronger person. I’m taking better care of myself than I have in years. I’m very grateful.”