Roz Varon talks about cancer battle for ABC 7 Goes Pink

October 1, 2013 (CHICAGO)

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Cancer survivors Think Pink at Chicago's lakefront for GMA

Not even the fog along the lakefront could dampen the spirits of the nearly 100 breast cancer survivors who came out to go pink with Good Morning America.

Mothers, daughters, friends, even a pink pooch showed up to support, educate, empower and share. Virgie Gentry survived breast cancer 16 years ago, only to have it come back 7 years later.

"I had to go through chemo and radiation all over again, but 8 years later I'm here to tell my story," she said.

There are many stories - of strength, love and research to find a cure. Donna Pelletier is a stage 4 survivor and is currently taking part in a clinical trial.

"Unfortunately a lot of people think clinical trials are the last resort which is so not true. When you're participating in a clinical trial like I am, I actually get a lot of pleasure in knowing I'm helping a lot of women out there," Pelletier said.

It's not just survivors who are going pink. There are hundreds, thousands of supporters too.

"My mom is a breast cancer survivor and i wasn't around for her treatment so it's my way of giving back to those who also don't have family around," Jane Gianou said.

From words of support to words of advice, especially when it comes to getting a mammogram.

"They're so scared, they think that it hurts so much, where a tattoo, an ear piercing, a toothache actually lasts longer than getting a mammogram. Five minutes of being uncomfortable is worth a life time of protection," Teresa Manson, mammogram technologist, said.

Powerful words during the month of October that will hopefully be heard year-round.

Roz Varon shares her story

My journey started seven years ago.

"When someone tells you, you have cancer, its like having the wind knocked out of you!"

That was how this journey began back in 2006 after I found a lump while vacationing with my family.

With a Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis, I began a targeted treatment that I still do every three weeks at Rush University Medical Center. Regular CAT scans also became part of my new normal - with that regimen, I got rid of the original tumors and got back to the traffic desk here at ABC7 Chicago.

Along with my "day job," advocating for breast cancer charities has become a passion of mine. I speak about my journey at "Making Strides" events, I've modeled with other survivors, and recently hit the road with my daughter for the Avon 2-Day Walk.

"After seven years of being cancer free, my doctors found a new breast cancer - DCIS - ductal carcinoma in situ - it in its earliest stages, stage zero."

Now, my second journey with cancer has begun. My oncologist, Dr. Melody Cobleigh discovered it after ordering a mammogram, to be ultra-cautious in her search for new cancer cells.

"It makes more sense to now re-look at the breast maybe on a regular basis, to make sure a new type of cancer has not popped up," said Dr. Peter Jokich, director of breast imaging, Rush University Medical Center.

This latest battle involves a treatment I've never done before - radiation - the doctors at Rush recently walked my husband and me through the process.

"The purpose of the radiation, if there are any tiny cancer cells remaining in the breast tissue after a lumpectomy, the radiation therapy sterilizes that and kills those cancer cells," said Dr. Katherine Griem, professor of radiation oncology, Rush University Medical Center.

While it may feel like I'm a bit of a "cancer veteran" now, this cancer is different, so the treatment is different, and that's "the story" for most of us.

"Breast cancer isn't a cookie-cutter disease, every woman has an individual story, and the more we're learning about breast cancer, the more we're tailoring treatment," said Dr. Andrea Madrigrano, surgical oncologist, Rush University Medical Center.

The one constant in this battle - the importance of regular screening and early detection.

"The more important thing is when breast cancer is found early, it is very treatable, it is very curable," said Dr. Madrigrano.

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