Breast Cancer Awareness Month: ‘Get Checked,’ Says Survivor Jean Leonetti

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Everyone who’s been part of the core CareerStaff Unlimited corporate team in the last few decades knows Jean Leonetti. An Accounts Receivable Analyst who originally worked out of the Houston office (and currently works remotely and has done so for a decade and a half), Jean and her positive, friendly attitude have been an unforgettable part of the CSU family for 25 years now.

Jean is also a three-time cancer survivor who battled breast cancer a decade ago — and won. As such, she has some important advice for other women: “Get checked,” she says.

On April 1, 2001, not long after her 50th birthday, Jean learned that she had stage IV colon cancer. And because of more frequent mammograms conducted after her cancer treatment, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. A decade later, Jean learned that she had thyroid cancer, as well.

Jean’s story is an inspiring one. And it’s all the more so because, over the course of her life, and despite facing serious challenges, she still remains the same happy, kind, caring person she’s always been. Her positive attitude, and her ability to draw strength from “faith, friends and family,” in her words, haven’t just kept her going over the years. These things have also kept her happy, and thriving in a job that she’s great at.

We recently sat down with Jean to get to know her a little better, and to hear what a three-time survivor and eternal optimist has to say about life, surviving cancer and what we should all do during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Meet Jean Leonetti

Breast Cancer Survivor JeanJean handles accounts receivable for all of CareerStaff’s travel nursing, allied and pharmacy staffing and recruitment in Texas, Oregon and Washington State. It’s a big job, and it can be a challenge tackling it from home (as so many folks who are working at home for the first time this year can surely understand). But she knows exactly how to handle it.

“You must be organized,” she told us. “You need a routine to work from home. You need to get yourself ready, like you’re actually going in to work. You need to have a system, and you need to follow it.”

That spirit of tackling the biggest challenges with the right mindset and can-do spirit is, no doubt, a big part of why Jean has remained victorious in the fight against cancer.

In 2009, eight years after her fight with stage IV colon cancer — the most advanced type — Jean was receiving regular mammograms. Her oncologists felt it a good idea, since her early health battles put her at a higher risk level. It was this caution that led to the discovery of breast cancer at its earliest stage, which would “never have otherwise been found,” Jean believes. 

“It was not hereditary,” she said. “It was caused from hormone replacement for hot flashes.”

Devastating as this news was — her daughter took it particularly hard — Jean fought on. She underwent aggressive radiation therapy for five days, and emerged on the other side as a two-time cancer survivor.

Physically non-detectable breast cancer — the form that Jean had — presents no symptoms, so regular checkups are the only way to detect it. Jean knows that her heightened risk was a big part of discovering something that might have otherwise been found too late. And for that reason, she urges regular checkups for women both with and without a family history.

“Get checked,” she repeats — advice that applies not just during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but all year ‘round.

‘Always Listen to Your Body, and Always Get Your Mammograms’

Through it all, Jean has remained a happy person. She loves life; she loves her family; she loves her job. Whatever happens, her positivity and friendliness shine through, as does the wisdom that comes with experience. And that experience isn’t just about her battles against cancer, but putting up with other fights, too: “I’ve been through about 10 presidents at CareerStaff,” she laughs.

Jean with her fundraising friends at Goody Girls
Jean with her fundraising friends at Goody Girls

During that time, she’s also refused to let cancer stop her from doing the things she loves. That includes serving as a livestock and rodeo volunteer for 40 years, and a passionate involvement with the “world’s largest cookoff” from Goody Girls, “the oldest BBQ team out there!” In its most recent year, the group raised $165,000 for a three-day cookoff to contribute to a 501(c) educational nonprofit. (Check out Goodygirls.org for more details or info on how to contribute.)

And, although Jean’s work-from-home expertise has helped her weather the current Covid-19 pandemic fairly well, it’s also disrupted some major life events. This year, she had to cancel a cruise to the Greek islands to celebrate her 75th birthday.

But even in the face of disappointment, she remains eternally optimistic. Cancer hasn’t changed her outlook on life at all, she told us — rather, it’s made her more conscious of her body, and has helped her learn to listen to it.

“Always listen to your body, and always get your mammograms,” she said. “Regardless if there is any hereditary breast cancer in the family — make sure and get checked.”

Having a support group helps too, she says, and she understands the value of having people in your personal and professional life who care, who understand, and who can help. And, for Jean, that includes the people she works with every day at CareerStaff Unlimited.

“I love working with the people at CareerStaff,” Jean told us. “I love the challenge of the job, and I have a real passion for it. And it helps that the people I work with at CareerStaff are fabulous.”

CareerStaff Unlimited is a healthcare staffing and recruitment company based in Texas. Learn more about CareerStaff here.

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