Last year, Rush County resident Rose Houze was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time after being in remission for 24 years.
Houze was born into the Shanahan family and has lived in Rush County her entire life. Houze worked at Rush Memorial Hospital (RMH) for 44 years, up until her illness made her physically unable to do so.
“This is my second diagnosis of breast cancer. I was first diagnosed in April of 1994,” Houze said. “Back in those days, all you did was either have surgery, chemo or radiation. They did not do estrogen receptor testing like they do now a days. I had surgery back in 1994 and had no recurrence up until November of 2018.”
Houze found out her cancer had returned during a yearly mammogram at RMH. RMH Radiologist Dr. Jon Hopkins detected calcifications that had changed and concluded a biopsy was needed.
Houze emphasized the importance of screenings and early detection and taking action against cancer.
“Do what the doctor says,” Houze said. “You don’t want to. You sure don’t want to. You know your body. Any little change, get it checked out and if it is something get it taken care of. It could turn out to be benign, but you don’t want to let it go.”
Houze’s cancer formed in a different primary site than it had 24 years ago. The cancer was non-metastatic, which means it didn’t spread to other organs in her body.
Houze was stunned by her diagnosis but, because of working at RMH and having fought cancer before, she knew treatment options were better than in the past.
“It floored me, but I’d been through it before.” Houze said. “We didn’t have the extensive testing that we have now. The first time I did not have to have chemotherapy. This time it called for chemotherapy, because had I not had chemotherapy, it could have spread to other organs and we didn’t want to do that.”
Houze has chemotherapy treatments every three weeks and had surgery at Community Hospital South. She will not finish treatment until this upcoming January.
Houze’s chemotherapy treatments diminish her appetite. However, it is important for those battling cancer to stay well nourished.
Houze admits she has tried talking her doctors out of treatments, but they have been steadfast in keeping her motivated to continue.
“It’s hard. It’s very hard. I’d always heard that chemo was hard, but until you experience it, there’s almost no way to explain,” Houze said. “You’re sick, weak everyday practically. You just don’t feel good and mentally you have got to keep yourself going. That’s the hard part too, because physically you don’t feel good but mentally you’ve got to feel good.”
Houze’s husband Robert Houze, who is retired, is her primary caregiver. He admitted his role can be tough, but he stays strong for his wife.
“You love and you care and you have compassion. You have to have that, but at certain points in time you get disgusted also,” Robert said. “Like she’s said, she doesn’t feel like eating. Well, she has to eat. She doesn’t want to go to treatment, because of this and that and the other. It’s hard but you have to push and be stern and not break down, because if you breakdown you’re letting her down which, consequently causes problems in the long run.”
Robert is unwavering in his role as a caregiver despite the challenges he and his wife are facing.
“The caregiver’s job to me is nothing more than what I’d normally do,” Robert said. “Naturally, there are more responsibilities, but if you care and love, you’re going to do it anyway.”
Houze said prayer has been a great support to her throughout her battle with cancer.
“You pray a lot and you have prayer chains,” Houze said. “My faith has gotten me through this.”
Houze’s chihuahua, Maria, does a great job of helping her cope as well.
“She seems to know when mommy doesn’t feel good,” Houze said.
People have asked to bring Houze meals to help her out. She greatly appreciates this, but in these circumstances, all she needs are their prayers.
She finds significant strength through the encouragement of her oncology nurses at RMH.
“My oncology nurses are a great group of gals. They have helped me along,” Houze said. “I worked there for 44 years, so there are not too many people I don’t know. I’m so happy I could have my treatments here. I can’t imagine having to go to Indianapolis and have an oncology treatment. The drive home would just be awful.”
The Houze’s are grateful for the help the staff at RMH have provided.
“Their care and the empathy they have are remarkable,” Robert said. “It’s not just one. It’s the whole group, the whole hospital. It’s like they’re one family and everybody is in support with what’s going on with Rose.”