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Breast Cancer Survivor

Rosanne Gialanella

  • Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 at age 54; treated with surgery
  • Diagnosed with stage III recurrence in 2011; sought care at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; treated with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy
  • Inspired to conquer her disease and heal by the music of Bruce Springsteen

Rosanne Gialanella was 54 years old when she had breast cancer in 2006. She was treated with a mastectomy and had sentinel node mapping--all of her nodes were clear. Rosanne had another surgery for an implant. As part of her treatment, she also took anastrozole (Arimidex) for the next five years.

In June 2011, the unexpected happened. Rosanne had a recurrence. “It wasn’t supposed to happen,” she says. “Only two percent of people with my kind of cancer get it again. It’s not even in the text books.”

Recurrence

Rosanne was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer—an aggressive cancer. She decided that she’d better come to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to see Julie Gralow, MD, a medical oncologist well-known as the best in the area when it comes to treating breast cancer.

“After five years it was hard to leave my old medical team,” Rosanne says. “I’m really glad Julie Gralow is my doctor though. My friend had told me that she would scare the cancer right out of me.”

Rosanne set up a team of supportive friends and started a calendar with Lotsa Helping Hands through Cancer Lifeline to get through her treatment.

“My sisters came from the east coast to lend their support during my surgery and first chemotherapy treatment,” Rosanne says.

“TEAM ROSANNE helped lift me up through the toughest journey of my life,” she says.

Treatment

Treatment began with a team at SCCA that included Kristine Calhoun, MD, the surgeon who took out the cancer and 11 lymph nodes; Dr. Gralow, who treated Rosanne with chemotherapy from August to November 23, 2011; Peter Neligan, MD, who removed Rosanne’s implant; and Janice Kim, MD, radiation oncologist who prescribed daily radiation treatment from February to March 23, 2012.

Rosanne learned how to be her own best advocate as she navigated through chemo and radiation. She had all the challenging side effects from both treatments. And she has lymphedema as well, that she recently finished physical therapy for. “I was fortunate to have had the most wonderful chemo nurse. I received emotional and medical support from her and the patient support team that I reached out to,” Rosanne says.

Rosanne takes tamoxifen now. “This is hard to wrap my arms around since I was on Arimidex for five years,” she says. “But I am trying to follow protocol and trust this will be the last one (cancer).

“The second time around, I couldn’t work. I became anemic and I realized my job was to heal myself. I exercised, removed stress from my life, and didn’t work,” she says.

Inspiration to heal

During the four months of her chemotherapy treatment, Rosanne kept a sketch pad on hand and listened to the music of Bruce Springsteen. He accompanied her on her good days and bad, when her friends were with her or not. During her daily radiation treatments, Bruce’s music was there, too. It filled her mind with hope and her heart with joy. She felt alive with his music.

“I told myself that I’d go see Bruce Springsteen when I was through with chemo and radiation to thank him, in person, for his music,” Rosanne says.

A believer in the power of intention, a series of events occurred that Rosanne believes were the steps to making her desire to thank an artist in person actually happen.

“My niece is a member of a beach club on the Jersey shore where Bruce Springsteen also happens to be a member,” Rosanne says. “My niece was following her son James when they ran into Bruce. She told him about me and how his music accompanied me every day to all of my cancer treatments. Bruce told my niece that he’d like to meet me and that we should go back stage before his concert!”

On September 19, 2012, Rosanne found herself in New Jersey with her family and friends at a Bruce Springsteen concert. “Four generations of my family were there to see him,” Rosanne explains. “Angels along the way intervened and made this magical event happen!”

With her niece and friend, Rosanne went back stage and met Bruce Springsteen. Rosanne gave him a thank you card that she had made showing a photo of her in boxing gloves with a friend on her last day of chemo. Bruce hugged Rosanne. She was able to say thank you in person, just like she’d intended.

“Bruce was delighted to hear he has lots of new fans from SCCA and Seattle,” Rosanne says.

[Listen to Rosanne talk about her experience meeting singer Bruce Springsteen in this personal interview. Video produced by Mike Boydston.]

Living cancer-free

In 2013, Rosanne will have reconstructive surgery again to replace the implant that was removed from the radiated breast, and a prophylactic mastectomy of her left breast. This will be her seventh surgery in seven years. She comes to SCCA every three months to see Dr. Gralow to monitor her health.

"Roseanne tackled her cancer recurrence head-on,” says Dr. Gralow. “She set up an incredible support network that helped her get through the tough treatment days. They came to clinic visits with her, making sure her questions were answered and her side effects were addressed. Now she's generously giving back, by volunteering and supporting other cancer patients."

“Every day, I show up and am honored to be here with all of you as we move forward on the heros journey. I am recreating myself in 2013,” Rosanne says. “I’m a certified Look Good... Feel Better trainer through the American Cancer Society and a Lance Armstrong Foundation Exercise and Thrive trainer.”

She holds a degree in marketing and has done a lot of fundraising in her career. She has set her sights on advocacy for cancer survivors, but on the side, is an artist and stylist, too. And an ardent fan of Bruce Springsteen’s music, of course.

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