No one ever needed to tell Rose Marie Fife to get an annual cancer screening. Her mother died of breast cancer at 74, so she consistently includes mammograms into her annual routine.
But in 2006, her doctors found a lump indicating stage 1 breast cancer. She was 52 at the time and opted to have a mastectomy of her right breast. After the procedure came four rounds of chemotherapy and breast reconstruction.
What followed was 10 years of annual checkups with clean results. “I thought, ‘I don’t need to come here anymore,’” Rose Marie says. “I had been there, done that and checked off the box.”
But then in 2017, during one of those annual screenings, a chest X-ray showed a spot on one of her lungs. Her doctors did a biopsy and opted for ongoing monitoring.
Early in 2023, the doctors noticed a change in the spot and immediately referred Rose Marie to thoracic surgeon Emily Cassidy, MD, of Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Institute. In June, Dr. Cassidy performed robotic surgery to remove one of the three lobes in Rose Marie’s right lung to help treat her for stage 1 pulmonary adenocarcinoma lung cancer.
Because of the precision and minimally invasive nature of the robotic surgery procedure, Rose Marie is recovering quickly. Though she will continue to be under the care of an oncologist for the rest of her life, she doesn’t mind. She considers herself in good hands with her regular cancer care team, including Our Lady of the Lake oncologist Vince Cataldo, MD.
“Without those tests, I may not have been diagnosed until it was too late,” Rose Marie says. “The doctors we have here in Baton Rouge are the best and I know with their care I will live to a grand old age!”
Spreading the Word to Save Lives
Rose Marie remembers thinking that she was feeling “healthy as a horse” in the years after her breast cancer procedure.
“It had been 17 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I thought I had had my time with cancer and my doctor visits were just going to be routine,” she says. “It just goes to show that you have to listen to your body and your doctors, and go to the doctor for your annual check-ups.”
For Rose Marie and her husband Johnny, who has battled prostate cancer, they have heard the “C” word three times. They’ve made it their mission to encourage their children and grandchildren to understand their own risks, know their family history and start getting screened early. She says her oldest daughter is already seeing a breast specialist because of that family history.
Rose Marie is also heavily involved in community projects that raise awareness about breast cancer and other forms of cancer, such as the Bust Breast Cancer event. She’s also been an honoree of the Best Dressed Ball, working to support cancer care in Baton Rouge.
Her recommendations for those on their own cancer journey: Believe in prayer and have a positive attitude.
“You should see my prayer warriors,” Rose Marie says. “They got me through this last diagnosis. You have to stay strong as you go through the journey. I never cried when I was diagnosed with lung cancer, but I did cry with joy knowing how loved I was and that I had so many loving friends and family who needed me to get better.”
Rose Marie has been honored as one of Our Lady of the Lake’s Geaux Heroes, which recognizes patients with incredible stories of strength and resilience. She is being recognized on the field of Tiger Stadium during the LSU football game on Oct. 14.