Meet Your Neighbor: Sue Rossi
Whats your background in Tahoe? When I moved up here, I was a hairstylist. I eventually got a job doing hair, and I was a manager up at The Balcony for four-and-a-half years, and then I owned it for 15 years. I met my husband, Tom, up here. We were married on the beach at Tahoe. I have my son, Sam. And I enjoy the openness, and serenity, and the beauty of the lake. When and how did you first discover you had breast cancer? Through a mammogram at Tahoe Forest in 2001. The long and short of it was I had to have a mastectomy and I had to have chemo and radiation back then. So the cancer receded for awhile? We had hopes that we had gotten everything. But when we did my mastectomy, we found invasive cancer that was really close to my chest wall. I got five years out of that, and then I found another lump in that same side and started having pain in my other side, which was my liver. So we went in, and took out that mass and realized that it was cancer. They did ultrasound, and found out that the pain in my side was the two-inch tumor in my liver. Thats when I started the once a week chemo and Herceptin. What is Herceptin? What got me through my experience now is a new drug that came out in 2005. It had been in testing when I first had breast cancer in 2001. So now in 2006 anyway, they were able to test me for this gene and it turned out that I was positive for the her-two gene. I was able to use this new drug, Herceptin. That new drug finds this gene anywhere in your body – the gene is in the cancer cells. It attaches itself to the cancer and stops it from growing. I had it when I was going through chemo for six months. By the end, it reduced my tumor in my liver by 75 percent. The new drug, the Herceptin, is whats keeping this cancer at bay. Thats what gives all of us who are fighting cancer any kind of hope. They are seeming to come up with new things, and you know just helping with research. Its just saving my life. The community really rallied to support you when the going got rough, right?This community has just been a complete amazement to me. The girls at the Balcony had a cut-a-thon to raise money to help me with medical bills. They raised $5,000. And then they left a pink piggy-bank up at the front desk and they raised another $2,000.Going down once a week to Reno for chemo – I had a different driver every week who would wait three to four hours, and then would drive me home. Every single week for six months. And then, I would come home to a home-cooked meal that someone else would drop off. I really appreciate people donating to any type of cancer research. The difference between my experiences is they put this drug out in the market and it saved my life. I guess I just want to show people that I am an example of how donating to research for cancer can bring about drugs or treatments that can give hope that something new is around the corner. How did the communitys support give you the courage to fight this disease?I really do believe in the power of prayer. Everybody has told me when I run into them anywhere in town how theyre praying for me and sending me well-wishes. That good energy really does give me strength and helps me keep that positive attitude. Even some people that I didnt really know – they came forward. It was hard to give in and allow people to be so helpful. But a close girlfriend told me in 2001 that I needed to realize that that was her way of feeling helpful. Your friends and family can feel so helpless when they hear of your illness. With that, I really gave in to it.Whats ahead for you in the future? Im planning on going back to work. Hopefully this next year Ill start, slowly at first and see how I do. I have a new lease on life, and I need to figure out how better to take care of myself. Were all working hard to be good wives, moms and women – so I just have to figure out how Im going to do everything I want to do, as well as have time for me and take care of myself.So this story has a happy ending? Yes, Im very blessed that it does. Im so glad I went through it in Tahoe. Because of the community and the openness and the beauty where I can take walks, and my talks with God. So I can get myself through this.The Suns Julie Brown conducted this weeks Meet Your Neighbor interview. E-mail suggestions for future interviews to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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