Joni Rasmussen chats with her nurse while undergoing chemotherapy for her ovarian cancer
This year alone more than 22,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For more than half of those women; it's a fight they will lose. However, there are still plenty of fighters refusing to become another statistic.
Joni Rasmussen knew something wasn't quite right with her body but she never expected it was something serious.
"None of the symptoms were so big that I really pushed on anything too hard and we luckily stumbled upon it." Said Rasmussen.
What doctors stumbled upon was cancer. Joni, in the prime of her life was diagnosed with stage II ovarian cancer.
"Words cannot describe it, I'm 28! So you think you're still in your 20's and you don't have to worry about medical problems." Said Rasmussen.
"It's rare, but not rare enough we have plenty of young women who are winning the fight against ovarian cancer." Said Dr. Luis Rojas, a gynecologic oncologist at Avera McKennan.
Joni is definitely a fighter. Her attitude and zest for life have not changed with her diagnosis.
<"You know I just haven't really looked back I guess, there's one path forward and that's we beat cancer and this is the year we do that!" Said Rasmussen.
As a photographer, it's Joni's job to captures moments. Battling cancer is full of moments most people would want to forget but Joni's Facebook page is proof that she's keeping score on who's winning this fight.
"I have six cycles so I have just this one and then five more weeks!" Said Rasmussen.
"If you look at Joni, I admire her courage and her persistence because she is working through this and she has a tough job." Said Dr. Rojas.
To fight the disease Joni had to have a hysterectomy. Cancer may have taken her ability to conceive children, but not her ability to become a mother.
"We had been trying for kids for a year and a half so we already suspected that we might not be able to have them naturally and at this point you know there's no point in saving my organs if I might die from it later so let's get me taken care of so that I can be a great mom for the kids that we do get." Said Rasmussen.
Her will is unshaken. I asked Joni where she finds her strength, she said they're right here in the room. Every single chemo trip means another round of pinochle with mom and dad.
"They are behind me 100% and with family like that I mean the rest will just work out it always does say a prayer and it works." Said Rasmussen.
Joni's parents retired to allow her husband Josh to continue working through her treatments.
Dr. Rojas also made sure Joni was never alone in this fight.
"He came in every day, I know he didn't have to work everyday, I know he didn't because some days he had jeans on but he still came in and checked on me and called and checked me out and I think that's just amazing." Said Rasmussen.
"This is tough, I've never had cancer but I see it in my patients and it's tough when you give somebody the thought or the diagnosis that they have cancer." Said Dr. Rojas.
Even with being dealt a bad hand in life, Joni refuses to let cancer define her. With her family, doctors, and nurses at her side she'll continue to fight like a girl.
"I feel like these people are my friends and they're here for me and you know if you have cancer, there's only one way to look and that's forward!" Said Rasmussen.
This is cancer that disguises itself very well so it's important for women of all ages to know the signs. If you have abdominal or lower back pain, nausea, feel overly tired, or notice a change in bathroom habits; see your doctor. It may not be cancer, but early detection is critical. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.