What I learned: 5 questions for breast cancer patient Joan Rose-Hall

December 1, 2015 | by Denise Heady

Five City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome 2016 atop City of Hope's Tournament of Roses Parade float on Jan. 1. The float, called "The Miracle of Science with Soul," adds a deeper dimension to the parade theme of "Find your Adventure."

Joan Rose-Hall will be riding the float with her brain surgeon, Rahul Jandial, M.D., Ph.D. Like many breast cancer survivors, Joan didn’t know that breast cancer is prone to spread, or metastasize, to the brain or that, if  it does, the odds of survival are low. When her cancer returned in the form of a brain tumor, Joan came to City of Hope. Jandial successfully removed the tumor, making it possible for Joan to begin many more adventures with her family and friends.

Here Joan answers questions about her diagnosis and her treatment at City of Hope.


What was your most pivotal moment during treatment?

After my breast cancer returned, I had to be in isolation at the hospital for 30 days. This period was very pivotal for me. I would look at myself in the mirror and not physically recognize who I was anymore. It’s weird to look at your reflection and not recognize yourself, but I realized I am more than just my body. The cancer may make me look physically different, but that doesn’t mean it has to take over the emotional and spiritual part of me.

What are some practical tips you would give other patients going through treatment?

I often say that cancer is similar to a marathon. You have to pace yourself. Before I got cancer, I use to run in a lot of marathons and my experience with cancer is very similar to training for marathons. They both require a lot of endurance. There are times when you can run like hell, and then there are times when you just need to sit down and rest. Cancer is not your death certificate by any means. When I was first told I had Stage 3 breast cancer, I thought I was dying. And now, eight years later and with two reoccurrences, I view my cancer as a chronic illness that requires a lot of stamina and pacing. When you get you down, you have to get back up. That’s the nature of the beast.

What family member or loved one did you rely on most?

My husband. He spent every night with me at the hospital when I was there for two months. He would get up at 4 a.m., go home, change and go to work. Around 2 p.m. he would come back to the hospital and would have to wear a gown and mask the entire time he was with me. We have come out of this experience a much stronger couple then when we went in, and much more in love. And for that part, I’m so grateful.

Which person at City of Hope had the biggest impact on you?

There have been so many people at City of Hope who have been so wonderful to me. Dr. Yeon, my oncologist, is an amazing woman and just hung in there with me. Dr. Jandial, my neurosurgeon, really made me feel comfortable and confident that I could deal with this disease and that my life wasn’t over. He makes you feel confident. He’s my hero.

I have never found the level of quality of care City of Hope provides anywhere else. Nothing even close, and I have worked as a registered nurse at numerous hospitals. It’s not just a job for the staff at City of Hope.  

How do you continue to "find your adventure" after your journey with cancer?

On some level, I’m very blessed this happened to me.  Every day is an adventure - and a delightful one. You wake up and the colors are brighter, you love more deeply. You just have the opportunity to almost do a retake on your life. You learn what’s important, what’s precious, what’s valuable. You become brave enough to have those hard talks with your family, and selfish enough to know when to take care of yourself and when to say no.  God has weird way of mixing pain with joy.

City of Hope researchers, led by Rahul Jandial, M.D., Ph.D., are conducting innovative research in this new frontier of cancer treatment - and changing the lives of patients like Joan. Watch her compelling story.


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For more information about City of Hope's float, visit the City of Hope Rose Parade site.

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If you are looking for a second opinion about your diagnosis or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

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