One night, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Dana Rose woke to find her husband Russ staring at her. She asked why he was doing so. He answered simply. “It’s my job to take care of you,” he said.
It’s been nine months since the 41-year old mother found a lump while showering. “I think it was kind of a thing from God,” she said. “I found this lump two months before time for my physical.”
It was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and her doctor told her to come in immediately. “I kind of freaked out,” she said. “They got me in to see the doctor and did a biopsy the same day.”
Dana said she was at work when the doctor phoned her May 27 with the news. “It was a little bit of a rude awakening,” she said.
Dana worked as a case manager at the Henry County offices of Kentucky Health and Family Services for 14 years and retired at the end of 2008. The cancer diagnosis did not play a part in her decision to retire, but the timing was good.
The following months were a whirlwind of activity revolving around tests and treatment for the “triple negative” type of breast cancer with which Rose was diagnosed. “It’s one they don’t know much about,” she said.
Her doctors performed a lumpectomy and determined the cancer had not spread to surrounding lymph nodes.
She was advised to undergo genetic testing to determine if her breast cancer was pre-determined by her DNA. “With my age and with a child, they said I should do it,” she said. “It came out okay.”
Then came six chemotherapy treatments. “I didn’t realize how sick I was until a urinary tract infection landed me in the hospital,” she said. Rose was taken by ambulance, a first in her life, sick and dehydrated and spent a week in bed recovering,
Dana was not alone, the experience also was hard on her husband Russ. “We lost a lot of sleep, and he lost weight,” Rose said. The couple soon realized they had to keep a positive attitude.
“I’m too young and I have a child,” Rose said. “I can’t let this get the best of me.”
Through it all, the Roses made it a point to make 10-year old daughter Rachel a part of the process and even inject some fun into their lives. “We have talked openly to our daughter,” Rose said. “It would only upset her more to lie or keep things from her.”
One of the most common side-effects to chemotherapy is hair loss, and when Dana’s hair began falling out, she and Ross hosted a head-shaving party. “We had friends over and ordered pizza,” she said. “We had as good a time as we could and nobody cried.”
Dana said her mother’s reaction caught her totally off-guard. “I thought she was going to wig out,” she said, but instead, Rose’s mother was completely calm. “It’s just what you looked like as a baby,” she said her mother told her.
Another calming source for Dana is her faith. A member of Eminence Baptist Church, she said the support of the church community has been integral to her healing. “The prayer warriors have been out,” she said. Dana has received more than 150 cards from friends, family and prayer lists.
Dana said hers has been a learning experience. “You don’t have to be older or sick for things to happen,” she said. “Now my girlfriends say they’re checking themselves every day.”
It hasn’t all been bad and Dana hopes to educate, entertain and help others in the future. “I think it was meant to happen,” she said. “I’d like to write down what happened to me, some of it is even funny, and give talks.”
For now, Dana finally feels like she retired. She had her 29th and final radiation treatment Tuesday, Feb. 10. “I’m enjoying being home for a couple of months,” she said.
She said the 2008 Henry County Relay For Life happened exactly one month following her diagnosis. “I decided to do the Relay For Life,” Rose said. She said she will participate again this year, as a survivor.
The Henry County Relay For Life will hold its kickoff meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 23, in the 4-H Building at the Henry County Fairgrounds. Byron Crawford, formerly of the Louisville Courier-Journal is the guest speaker.
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