For each PuppyUp Walk, the Event Manager and their Walk Team select both a Human Cancer Hero and a Canine Cancer Hero, to be honored during the Walk ceremonies.
These Heroes are chosen because of their exemplary attitude towards their particular type of cancer, showing bravery and hopefulness in their fight against this terrible disease.
Many of you know Roz Varon from the ABC7 News This Morning. She has been reporting TV traffic for over 30 years. Roz has always been an advocate for her health and has had annual mammogram.
In 2006, a month shy of her annual mammogram, Roz found a lump on vacation. “I was scared. I knew it couldn’t be good,” she said. She continued with her trip after consulting with her doctor. She thought “what could happen in two weeks?” The answer is a lot can happen. Upon her return, Roz went with her sister, a breast cancer survivor, to see the doctor. Tests confirmed she had Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and it had already spread to lymph nodes and the liver. “It’s something you can’t prepare for emotionally or mentally,” Roz said. “When it happens, you’re in such an emotional flux you’re not thinking straight.”
In shock, Roz went into attack mode. Fear wouldn’t rule this diagnosis. She prepared a plan, taking control of her health and future. “I got into fight mode because I’ll be damned if I was going to die and not be able to raise my daughter,” she said.
Roz’s treatment plan included 2 rounds of chemotherapy and a short-term “vacation” from work to deal with the continued bouts of nausea, headaches and fatigue that accompanied the treatment. She also needed to regain her strength to continue working at her high-stress job with crazy early morning hours.
Roz decided to not undergo a third round of chemo. Instead, after being coaxed into a second opinion by a work colleague, she saw an oncologist at Rush University Medical Center who was an expert in HER2+ breast cancer, an aggressive form of the cancer Roz was diagnosed with. The oncologist put her on Herceptin which shrunk the tumors considerably after just a couple of treatments. By January 2007, Roz’s tumors were gone!
Fast forward six years to 2013 when a mammogram detected tiny malignant calcifications in the same breast. She was diagnosed with DCIS, a non-invasive cancer at Stage 0. As always, Roz kept her viewers informed that she was once again diagnosed with breast cancer and would be back to work soon. She underwent a lumpectomy and then radiation five days a week for seven weeks (while still working the crazy hours for ABC7 News in the morning). What kept Roz going forward was the support of her family and friends as well as work. “Not all breast cancer or cancer survivors have that kind of support. I am fortunate and blessed that I did and I do,” she said.
Since her initial diagnosis back in 2006, Roz has always been very open and talked publicly about her cancer and the journey she is on. Make a plan, get multiple opinions from the medical community, take charge and get support from family and friends. “It’s called taking charge, being your own advocate for your health. You have to be a smart consumer when it comes to your health. Ask for help. People want to help, let them.”
Roz has been off Herceptin for over 2 years now and is still cancer free! She visits her oncologist twice a year with scans twice a year and an annual mammogram. She will continue to be her own best advocate. “I’m doing as much as I can, the rest is out of my control. I don’t treat cancer as a life-threatening illness; it’s something I can CONTROL. We have to take care of ourselves and believe in our doctor.”
Roz is a huge animal lover. She currently has two Whippets, Sassi and Lola who are the loves of her life, after her daughter and husband! Sadly, cancer took her beloved Whippet Ella at the age of 8 from nasal cancer. We are honored to have Roz Varon as the 2019 PuppyUp Chicago human cancer hero at this year’s Walk.