In Spring 2018, Rosalie Tocco-Bradley, PhD, MD, Chief Clinical Officer Trinity Michigan, shared her personal experiences with breast cancer and how she relied on the team at St. Joe’s for care in their SJMHS Gift of Health, newsletter for donors. Today, as she leads our health system and the communities that we serve through the ongoing effects of COVID-19 pandemic, she remains focused on preventing breast cancer recurrence and managing her health through routine follow-up exams, staying active, and self-care.
As we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month, Dr. Tocco-Bradley agreed to give us an update on her status, approach to continued recovery and well-being throughout the pandemic, and the importance of screening and treatment that can be done safely at St. Joe’s. Read the original article and Dr. Tocco-Bradley’s updates that follow:
When Rosalie Tocco-Bradley, PhD, MD, Chief Clinical Officer Trinity Michigan, thinks about cancer care, she thinks about the team – St. Joe’s experts from multiple fields of medicine and surgery who are there to diagnose, treat and care for our patients. When she thinks about cancer, she thinks about her mom and even more so her sister, Maria. “Losing my baby sister to breast cancer left a hole in my heart. When I think about my personal relationships and all the families we see impacted by cancer, I know I have to do everything in my power to help St. Joe’s and our physicians make care better.”
Hearing Dr. Tocco-Bradley talk about her sister and the medical team and programs she leads, you understand why she’s described as inspiring, resilient, caring and dynamic. Her strengths are rooted in experience. Dr. Tocco-Bradley has not only seen cancer through the eyes of a doctor, administrator, donor, sister, and daughter, you can add patient to that list – she’s fighting the disease herself…for a second time.
Even knowing the increased risk factor of family history, Dr. Tocco-Bradley was surprised when she first found a lump in 2007. “I always had screening mammograms, but I could feel something different,” Dr. Tocco-Bradley said. “I went in for more testing, and the minute my radiologist walked in to speak with me after my mammogram, I knew.” Dr. Tocco-Bradley relied on the team at St. Joe’s to treat her breast cancer. “Most people don’t know how many clinical specialties are actually involved in caring for a cancer patient. It takes a village. They saved my life.”
She underwent aggressive therapies – a mastectomy on the right side and chemotherapy, including Adriamycin, known as the red devil, which caused severe nausea and fatigue. “I’m a hearty girl,” Dr. Tocco-Bradley said. “But I was as sick as a dog.” With fighting spirit, she continued working throughout treatment and reconstructive surgery. In less than a year, Dr. Tocco-Bradley was back to full health and full action.
At home as a wife, mom, host family for USA Hockey players, and biker in the Make-a-Wish/Wish-a-Mile, and, professionally, treating patients, in the OR and pain clinic through Anesthesia Associates of Ann Arbor, going to business school, reviewing grants for Susan G. Komen, mentoring young women interested in medicine, and going on medical mission trips through ReSurge to underdeveloped countries. Then, in 2017, Dr. Tocco-Bradley found another lump. The breast cancer was back. Without hesitation, she turned to the team at St. Joe’s again who have given her a good prognosis.
“You know, my care has been extraordinary,” she said. “My doctors, nurses and staff have been available, answered my questions, and collaborated between the various specialties. I trust the St. Joe’s team with my life.”
In gratitude for the care she received and would receive and as a leader who is dedicated to continued improvements, Dr. Tocco-Bradley and her husband, Dr. Brian Bradley, were lead donors to the “Life is Remarkable” campaign with a gift of $25,000. Donors’ generosity was an investment in St. Joe’s cancer program and team, and the renewal of our Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Center, which reopened in 2018. “Every family will be touched by cancer and if you don’t know it already, you will know how great it is to not just have a facility, but also a great team to care for you,” shared Dr. Tocco-Bradley.
Since the article was written:
How are you doing? What treatments did you receive?
Following my 2nd mastectomy and 30 rounds of radiation, my energy level was low for some months but now I’m back to my usual fast pace. During recovery in 2018, I needed to reduce my Make a Wish fund raising ride from 300 miles to 50 miles but was delighted to manage 300 miles in 2019 – although I seem to be slowing down – LOL. I view every day as a gift. In terms of ongoing care, I continue to receive an infusion of Zometa twice a year to diminish my risk of metastatic bone disease and see my oncologist and breast surgeon annually.
How have you approached continuing recovery and well-being throughout the pandemic?
I never take any day for granted. I know that being able to live a healthy life is a gift, but also takes personal commitment post-breast cancer and during the COVID19 pandemic. I am acutely aware that the pandemic has created many hardships for people both emotionally and physically. I attempt to model healthy and safe behaviors for my family, friends and colleagues at work. And I am blessed to continue serving in a clinical leadership role through our COVID19 response team.
As women pay attention to breast health, how safe are mammograms at St. Joe’s right now?
Seeking a mammogram at St. Joe’s is completely safe and essential for women’s health. I was absolutely adamant that we re-establish our access to mammograms at St. Joe’s as quickly as possible following our first surge of COVID19. We are now in a great position to provide safe care with our screening protocols, masking and PPE adherence and cleaning protocols. Mammograms save lives and reduce unnecessary advanced breast cancer disease in women. Please don’t stay away. We are here for you.
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