Stories of Impact

Jodi Stern's Story

Hazy from anesthesia, Jodi Stern thought she must be dreaming. Colon cancer? Her doctor, Jason Gutman, MD, delivered the alarming news after a routine colonoscopy. To Jodi, it seemed impossible.

At 50 years old, she was the picture of health. She taught pilates. She exercised daily. She followed a healthy diet. “Me?” Jodi said, recollecting her disbelief. “This doesn’t happen to people like me. I’m so healthy!”

But it did happen to her. It happens to a lot of people like Jodi. In fact, colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined, in the United States. Jodi was among the lucky ones. Due to her timely testing, the cancer was found early (Stage 1) and was operable.

“So many people discover cancer when it’s too late to do anything about it,” said Jodi.  “I was 100% asymptomatic. I can’t imagine where I’d be today if I hadn’t gone for that test.” 

Now one of Jodi’s heroes, Dr. Gutman organized an appointment for her with surgeon Steven Ognibene, MD. Only a week after her diagnosis, she was at Rochester General Hospital having her cancer removed. There were zero complications and she required no additional treatment. She was cured.

Jodi’s experience, uncertainty about genetics and a recommendation by her physician, led to her urging both of her children to schedule a colonoscopy at age 35. That is 15 years earlier than suggested. 

“Your health is so important,” Jodi says. “It’s easy not to think about it until disaster strikes. Sometimes it’s unavoidable and accidents happen, but with this sort of thing, there are so many things you can do to make sure you’re staying healthy. This was a great wake up call.”

Today, Jodi continues her regimen of daily exercise and a healthy diet with the addition of annual check-ups just to make sure everything is as it should be. She also advocates for milestone preventative tests, and works to normalize tests like the one that saved her life for her family, friends and students.

“Let’s face it,” Jodi says, “nobody wants a colonoscopy! But really, you just need to do what the doctor says. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fluoride dental treatment when you’re young, a mammogram when you’re 40, or a colonoscopy when you’re 50. You have to be your own advocate.”

Because Care Matters
Every day, Rochester Regional Health supports the communities it serves with access to lifesaving exams, tests and procedures like the ones that saved Jodi Stern. To learn how we’re building a better future for community care, please go to give.rochesterregional.org/campaign or call 585.922.4800.


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