Because of research, Christina Rossi’s stage 3 breast cancer could be cured. Now she wants to pay it forward

In the summer of 2018, Christina Rossi was feeling off. “I knew something was wrong physically and I wasn’t myself, but I couldn’t pinpoint it,” Christina remembered. Her doctor ordered a CT scan, which showed a cyst on her ovary, and recommended she make an appointment with her OB-GYN.

Her three children were on summer break from school, so life got in the way for a few weeks. When she made an appointment in the fall, Christina’s OB-GYN wasn’t concerned about her cyst—but about the lump in her right breast.

“I said, ‘Oh that?’ It was strange,” said Christina, who was 38 years old at the time. “I had noticed the lump but hadn’t thought anything of it. The last thing I thought was that I could have breast cancer.”

Christina went for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound, and a few days later, she got a call with the words she never thought she’d hear: She had stage 3 breast cancer.

In the beginning, “things were going so fast I barely knew what any of it meant,” Christina recalled. She met with her surgeon, thinking he’d just say, “We’ll cut this out, and you’ll be on your way.” 

“Unfortunately, he said, ‘We are going to throw the kitchen sink at you,’ and that’s when I knew how serious this was,” Christina said. “Within two weeks, I was starting chemotherapy and getting my hair cut off pre-chemo so that my real hair could be made into a wig.”

Treatment was hard both physically and mentally. After five months of neoadjuvant (pre-surgery) chemotherapy, she learned things had not gone as planned during her operation: She still had a five-centimeter tumor, and all her lymph nodes were positive for disease. Her surgeon skipped reconstruction to get her to radiation as quickly as possible.

“I looked at my husband, John, and began to cry. ‘Was I going to die?’ was the first question I asked,” she said.

Christina ended up doing 28 rounds of radiation followed by five more months of oral chemotherapy. In April of this year, she got her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed so she could stop hormone therapy. Today, she takes an estrogen-suppressing drug to prevent recurrence.

During treatment, Christina met BCRF investigator and Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Eric Winer. Through Dr. Winer, Christina learned more about BCRF’s mission. To mark her 40th birthday and the end of nearly 18 months of active treatment, she found a special way to mark these milestones.

“I thought there was no better excuse to throw a party for myself and make it a fundraiser for BCRF,” she said.

So last February, just before the pandemic turned the world upside down, Christina and John brought their friends together for a Lumineers concert. Except, instead of purchasing tickets, they asked every guest to donate to BCRF in Christina’s honor. All told, they’ve raised more than $21,000 for lifesaving research. This fall, John will join #TeamBCRF to run the TCS New York City Marathon and further support research.

“I couldn’t have made it to today without John, my family, and research,” Christina said. “We truly believe in BCRF’s mission to cure breast cancer through research.”

Read more inspiring stories from BCRF's Research Is the Reason storytelling initiative here.

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