Roseann Tice - Patient Story

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"The team of doctors at Fox Chase took the time to go over exactly what I should expect."

— Roseann Tice

Roseann Tice says her husband always called her a "sunshine person."

"As long as the sun was shining I was happy, and I would enjoy the day. If it was rainy, cloudy or overcast - not so much," recalls Roseann. But now, after a 15-year journey with the professionals at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Roseann even loves the rainy days. As she says, "every day, regardless of the weather, is a great day, because I'm alive."

A breast cancer survivor, Roseann's story began in December 1994, when she was 57 years old. A mammogram at her local hospital detected an in situ (or encapsulated) group of cancer cells. A general surgeon performed a lumpectomy and, because he felt the cancer was contained, did not recommend further treatment.

Almost two years later (in November 1996), her yearly mammogram once again showed suspicious cells, in the same breast, only this time it was evident that the cancer had spread. "I remember thinking, 'oh my gosh, this has had two years to spread," she said. "This is going to be terrible.'"

Roseann pictured with former Fox Chase radiation oncologist Dr. Gary Freedman.Roseann's general surgeon recommended she have a mastectomy - and at that moment, she thought, "I really need to talk to an oncologist." When she mentioned this idea to her surgeon, he agreed, but felt it wouldn't be necessary until after the surgery. Unsatisfied with the response, Roseann instead asked the surgeon for a list of reputable cancer treatment centers.

After researching the surgeon's recommendations, Roseann decided to get a second opinion at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, about 70 miles from her home. "I remember feeling petrified," said Roseann. "Fox Chase had sent me a big package of materials, and I let it sit on my table for over a week without opening it. I couldn't face it. I felt like if I ignored it, it would simply go away."

When she realized there may be appointment information contained in the package, Roseann took the plunge and opened it. She was right. An appointment had been scheduled, which is when she reached a turning point in her journey.

In January 1997, Roseann met with her team of doctors at Fox Chase. "The radiation oncologist told me that yes, indeed, I would need to have a mastectomy," shared Roseann. "And then they began to describe every step of the process in complete detail. When we were finished, my anxiety level was down to zero. There was absolutely no fear of the unknown, because they took the time to go over exactly what I should expect."

Roseann had her mastectomy on Valentine's Day 1997 and continued with scheduled visits that ranged from every three months, to twice a year, to annual visits that consisted of mammograms, chest x-rays and blood work.

In April 2008, during one of her annual check-ups, the radiologists saw what they believed was the beginning signs of cancer in her other breast. Despite the fact that it was a Friday afternoon, the doctors made arrangements for Roseann to get x-rays and to have an aspiration immediately; the tests revealed that it was, indeed, cancer.

"I felt that all of the doctors at Fox Chase, especially my surgeon, Dr. Bleicher, really cared about me and that I was safe in their hands."

Now at 71, Roseann was faced with several new treatment options that were not available 11 years earlier. But, as Roseann found out, having more choices did not make the decision process easier.

Roseann's new team - including surgeon Richard Bleicher, a radiation oncologist, and a medical oncologist - met with her to discuss the options of a lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy. "The doctors at Fox Chase were extremely patient with me," noted Roseann. "Because of their patience and the detailed explanation they provided me, I felt I had the time and the knowledge to settle my decision in my mind and in my heart."

Roseann never felt rushed or pressured. "I felt that all of the doctors at Fox Chase, especially my surgeon, Dr. Bleicher, really cared about me and that I was safe in their hands," she admitted. "They addressed all of my questions, my fears, my anxieties, and I knew that they would do anything humanly possible to keep me alive."

"Cancer, in many ways, gave me a gift. I understand how precious life is."

She was right. And as a result of her experience at Fox Chase, Roseann has become an ambassador of sorts. Any time she learns of anyone being touched by cancer, she immediately starts to sing the praises of Fox Chase. Roseann even went so far as to bring a friend, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, with her to one of her daily radiation treatments, so he could see the facility and become acquainted with the environment. According to Roseann, "He, too, has subsequently had a positive experience and outcome at Fox Chase."

In 2010, at 72, Roseann says, "I have a real appreciation for life, and empathy for those who are ill. My mortality is real to me. Cancer, in many ways, gave me a gift. I understand how precious life is."

And in response to receiving this gift, Roseann has chosen to give back. In addition to working full-time, she volunteers for multiple organizations, including a nursing home and her church as a 6th grade religion teacher. With a chuckle in her voice Roseann explained, "If I didn't work full-time, and if I didn't live 68 miles away, you can bet that I'd be volunteering at Fox Chase Cancer Center, too!"

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