ELKHART — For Johanna Johnston, a 25-year-old Goshen native who recently graduated from college, acquiring health insurance was not at the top of her list.
Johnston said she had always considered herself a healthy person. If she ever got sick, she’d get better in a few days and move on.
Johnston enjoys being a fitness model. She likes doing exercise, be it outside running or in a studio at a barre class. Sometimes she rides her horse. Other days she practices archery. That is why Johnston’s world was shaken when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
What brought Johnston to the doctor was a series of incidents that happened to her around Memorial Day. Johnston was having trouble swallowing her food for a couple weeks. She had also started having problems lifting her left arm.
But she didn’t think anything serious was happening until she realized she couldn’t swallow liquids either.
At that point, any food or drink she ingested would come out of her nose.
“I cried at first because I was so frustrated,” Johnston said. “I didn’t know what the heck was going on.”
Johnston went to an urgent care center, where a doctor told her she didn’t have anything and that she was imagining things.
But the symptoms continued, and Johnston went to see a specialist, who told her to get an MRI.
Several doctor appointments later, Johnston still doesn’t know much about the tumor that was detected in her brain. She had a biopsy, but doctors were unable get much information from it because not enough tissue was collected to be examined.
“Then everything went into slow motion, and nothing happens fast,” Johnston said.
She continues waiting for the doctors to give the next step and to give her the options of what can be done in her case.
Without insurance, Johnston, who is a graphic artist at The Elkhart Truth, fears she won’t have enough to cover her medical bills.
As a part-time employee Johnston could not receive benefits, and after being diagnosed it became more difficult to acquire health insurance.
Her church, Voice Ministries, and employees at The Elkhart Truth decided to organize an event to raise funds to cover Johnston’s treatment. The event will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 3 at Concord Mall.
The event will feature a fun walk in which people can make a pledge and raise money as they walk. Other events include a bake sale, a silent auction and activities for children.
Anyone interested in participating can go to a website with information about Johnston and the fundraiser at www.walkingwithjo.com.
Johnston stopped working out for a while after she received her diagnosis because she did not want to injure herself.
But after a few weeks, she challenged herself to move, especially because she still couldn’t move her left arm.
“Fitness modeling is not my job, but I really like it and I just like being fit,” she said. “And not being able to work out and seeing my muscles waste away just lit a fire and I was like ‘No, that’s not happening. Not while there’s something I can do about it.’”
Johnston has not only kept her workout routines, but she has kept a positive attitude since receiving her diagnosis.
Johnston said her faith and her family have kept her going. She’s talked with friends about what she’s going through, and they keep her in good spirits.
When she learned that her church was organizing a fundraiser for her she felt overwhelmed because of the support. Now she feels encouraged.
“I feel really blessed and surprised that there is this much participation,” she said. “I knew people cared, but sometimes I get cynical. You hear the news and you go with doctors and at every corner you turn there’s a problem. It just seems like there are so many causes out there, how do you get people to care about one more?”
“But they’re amazing,” she said about the people she has seen share her story online.