Breast cancer doesn’t have to stop you from success – It didn’t stop me

This entry was written by Jackie Roth, PhD. Jackie is a Postdoctoral Fellow at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who was diagnosed with Stage III A breast cancer at the age of 28. Every other Friday, throughout the entire year of 2011, Jackie will share a blog entry about her breast cancer experience. This year-long blog series is in honor of LBBC’s 20th anniversary.

To read Jackie’s previous entries, enter “ Jackie Roth” in the search box on this site.

These past two weeks have been some of the busiest and most stressful weeks of my life.  I have been preparing to defend my thesis, which I can say that I did successfully last week!  So yes, I am now officially a doctor!

My thesis defense day began with me waking up at 5 am to practice my talk just once more.  I had to deliver a 45-minute presentation, which was open to the public.  I didn’t count exact numbers, but there were definitely at least 50 people there!  My talk was composed of the research that I’ve conducted while in graduate school.  But how do you really sum up 7 years all into one 45-minute presentation?  Well, you really can’t.

I just focused on the part of my research that is the most interesting to me.  I discussed how the laboratory I work in is using mouse models of breast cancer to identify new genes that are important in the disease.  I had a strange feeling in the beginning of my talk when I discussed how the average age of breast cancer patients is 60 years old, and here I am at 29.  I also had to defend why we used a mouse model that develops cancer later in life because that is what is most commonly seen in humans.  In the back of my head I just kept thinking, well “what about me?” and “where is my mouse model?”

After my public talk, I entered into the closed session of the day in which six faculty members were able to question me for hours.  Anything that was included in my thesis, which will be just shy of 300 pages, was fair game for questioning.  These few hours were a blur to me and I tried to answer the questions as best as I could.  I was so stressed out and I could tell that I was not thinking as clearly as I normally do.  I really must say that ever since chemotherapy, I am not as confident in my answers because I just can’t seem to get the right words out.  But I must have done well because I passed!  So we moved onto the celebrations!

Next we had lunch at my school where my co-workers, family, and other students joined me.  We had a toast of pink champagne and a delicious cake.  There is a picture of “Sleeping Beauty” on the cake because that is the name of the mouse model that I used in the laboratory to conduct my research – hence the mice all over the cake too!  After lunch we headed out to a nice family dinner and then onto my party where we danced the night away…

Overall it was a tiring, yet wonderful day.  I can’t believe all that I still accomplished while going through my treatments.   Having this day to put everything together is really starting to feel like I am closing a chapter and moving on with my career and my life in general.  I am finally out of school and it only took 29 years!

To read Jackie’s previous entries, enter “ Jackie Roth” in the search box on this site.

Tell us how you prevailed over your breast cancer diagnosis! Comment here or on our Facebook page.

4 thoughts on “Breast cancer doesn’t have to stop you from success – It didn’t stop me

  1. Congratulations! I am in school as well and yes, the chemo does affect one’s confidence in being articulate and thorough in research! If you can do it, so can I! Congratulations again and thanks for the motivation!

  2. Congrats (again)! Your presentation was great and you were very confident! So glad I was there for this special day 🙂 xo

  3. Congratulations Dr. Roth!!!!!!!
    This would have been a geat accomplishment for anyone but, as an oncology nurse who witnesses the toll chemotherapy takes on the body everyday…….this is amazing! Breast cancer has a new champion……in more ways that one!
    Hugs for Strength

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