Young Georgia mother is now a breast cancer survivor at 23

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Johnetta Goolsby of Conyers, Georgia, says being happy is part of her DNA, who she is.

"I was always a happy-go-lucky type person, and open book," Goolsby says.

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But, on September 11, 2015, Goolsby was hit by a major reality check.  At 22, with a 1-year old baby daughter, Goolsby went to the doctor with what was initially thought to be a breast infection.   When the symptoms persisted, she underwent a biopsy.   The diagnosis was stunning. She had breast cancer.

"I mean (at) any age, it's scary, having that.  But at 22? It's like, 'Whoa! What's going on?'" she remembers.

Still, Johnetta felt lucky.  The biopsy showed the cancer was "stage 0," or non-invasive.

"The first thing that pops into my head is my daughter," she says. "Peyton, Peyton, Peyton, because that's who I live for.  That is my life."

In October, with her daughter in mind, Johnetta underwent a double mastectomy.

"That's when we found out I had stage 2 cancer," she says. "And it had invaded some of my lymph nodes."

That meant Johnetta would need radiation, and chemotherapy.

"And it was like, 'Oh, my goodness. This is not supposed to be happening! I'm supposed to be better with this surgery!'" she says.

For the first time, Johnetta let herself cry.  Then, she took a deep breath, and started treatment.

"The first chemo treatment was horrible," she says. "I was always sick, tired."

But at Northside Hillendale Medical Center, round two of chemo, has been much smoother.

"I'm not going to say I enjoyed this treatment better," she laughs. "But, it's doing me a lot better."

And along the way to "better." Johnetta Goolsby, who had been training to become a phlebotomist, realized something important. To cancer patients like her, blood products like plasma and platelets are a lifeline.  So, she has become a volunteer ambassador for the American Red Cross, to show people why donating blood matters.

"Donating can save my life.  Your life. When you donate, you could possibly be saving a newborn's life. Or you could be saving somebody my age: a 23-year old, diagnosed with breast cancer," says Goolsby.

So, if you can, she says, give blood.

"You're blessed to be a blessing," she says. "That's all I can say.  You're blessed to be a blessing."

And, speaking of blessings, Peyton's dad Antoine, Goolsby's longtime boyfriend, has been by her side through her cancer treatment. Right before her mastectomy, Antoine to a leap of faith.  He asked Johnetta to marry him.

"When we first met, I told him I was going to spend the rest of my life with him," she says. "So, he made my dreams come true."

April 6, 2016, nearly 7 months after her cancer diagnosis, Johnetta, now 23, celebrated her final chemotherapy treatment. 

She says she's grateful for her life, and grateful for the lessons she's learned.

"Listen to your body, go to the doctor, go get checked out," she says.  "And live your life,  live it to the complete fullest you can live it to."

"And, make sure you're happy doing it," she adds.  "Make sure you're happy."