The days leading up to graduation from the police academy are supposed to be some of the happiest and proudest moments someone will ever have as an officer. But for Leticia Johnson, hired in October 2018, the time before starting her new career with the Logan City, Utah, Police Department were filled with fear and uncertainty after a doctor’s physical showed she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.
“It was my doctor’s personal cellphone number and I just knew he did not have good news, because he was also on vacation during that time,” Johnson told the Cache Valley Daily. “I picked up the phone and said I didn’t want to talk to him. He said, ‘I’m sorry, your tests came back and you have breast cancer.’”
Rather than getting into her uniform and police car, Johnson, diagnosed with stage II invasive carcinoma, had to immediately begin six months of chemotherapy, followed by several weeks of radiation. Still, Johnson remained upbeat and optimistic every step of the way, never wavering from her dreams of becoming an officer.
“I went into the police station with my husband to speak with my sergeants,” she said. “I told them that I wanted to work, but if they couldn’t keep me, I understood. I was shocked when they said I was a part of the family and wasn’t going anywhere. They just told me to focus on getting healthy.”
Johnson’s determination and fight inspired a department-wide effort to help their sister in blue. Many employees gave some of their vacation and sick leave to Johnson for when she couldn’t do office work, and several fundraisers were held.
“During all this, Officer Johnson continued to be a wife and mother and came to work with unparalleled positivity,” the department said on Facebook. “She maintained this attitude every visit we made during her chemo, while recovering from surgeries and in the office as she continued to work through her illness.”
Finally, at the end of March, doctors gave Johnson the news she had been hoping for every day throughout her 18-month battle: She was cancer-free and cleared to go out on patrol for the first time.
“My supervisor told me, ‘you are going out on patrol,” explained Johnson. “I couldn’t believe he was serious. This warm feeling ran through my body. I realized that this was finally it and I’m going to do it. As I looked in the mirror on my first day while putting my uniform on, I realized my dream was finally happening.”
Although certainly her toughest obstacle to date, overcoming cancer wasn’t the only challenge Johnson has had to face throughout her life. Originally born in Mexico before moving to the United States at 6, Johnson spent three years obtaining her citizenship. After seeing her family battle poverty and endure a hard life, she was inspired to join the police force.
“It just triggered this need,” said Johnson. “I wanted to protect people who were dealing with things like this. Someone who might think they don’t have a voice and they are not being heard, or that it doesn’t matter.”
Now fully healthy, Johnson will be able to do exactly that. “Take a lesson from Officer Johnson in these current times,” the department said. “Persevere, be positive in the face of adversity, get through it, it can be done, and we will make it through tough things. Congratulations, Officer Johnson.”
As seen in the May issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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