Reflecting the incredible life of her friend and co-founder of Cancer Wellness Connections, Eileen Grossman, Dr. Cynthia Angel notes that “when Eileen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, treatment options were limited, and outcomes could be grim. But Eileen wasn’t going to let cancer control her life”.
As Eileen recounted her experiences with chemotherapy while being honored with the Heritage Award at the 2012 Highland Gala, “I would get hooked up to the drugs, and party time would begin. Friends showed up and there was laughter. I didn’t want to waste the time or energy with sadness”. Dr. Angel adds “I’m not sure that the nurses were happy about it, but Eileen would escape the hospital and take walks down Elmwood Avenue, IV pole in tow. Nothing was going to hold Eileen back from leading her life in full”. As Eileen asserted, “cancer had picked the wrong girl”.
While visiting Dr. Angel and her practice partner, Dr. Brent DuBeshter’s 8 chair treatment suite when some of her friends were receiving treatment, Eileen formulated the idea for a program that was to become Cancer Wellness Connections. “Eileen approached us, proposing a plan that would bring in some diversions and small comforts making chemo less onerous” says Dr. DuBeshter. “It was an easy decision, one that our patients immediately took to with relish”.
Dr. Angel adds “It’s my experience that the patients that do the best are the ones that see cancer as just a part of their lives and focus on their overall quality of life”. Dr. Angel continues, “Gynecologic cancers remain serious and very threatening diseases; I don’t want to minimize that – but there are more and more treatments that often allow us to treat it as a chronic disease, allowing women to live long and satisfying lives. I’d like to see an overall cure sometime, but for now, it is gratifying to see women meeting their disease with confidence and with full and enriched lives”.
And that’s exactly what Eileen did. During the 20 years after her ovarian cancer diagnosis, she celebrated the wedding of her youngest daughter and the births of six grandchildren, seeing the oldest head to college this past fall.
Eileen’s zest for life was never diminished. Although in complete remission from cancer, Eileen was at loathe to call herself a survivor. She saw herself as a person, who when confronted with challenges, met them with all her might. As her husband Michael Grossman says “She knew she was fortunate to be completely free of cancer and worked to make sure others would be also. She put that passion to find ways to better the experience of friends, family and community members undergoing cancer treatments”. Michael recounts that, in the week before she died, Eileen went to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to help set up a new treatment protocol for Rochester Regional Hospital, a treatment which she believed would improve the quality of life for patients receiving radiation treatment. As typical with Eileen, while in Pittsburgh, she walked over a ½ mile to Starbucks in the cold and snow (at 5 in the morning) to get her morning latte. Nothing could get in the way of Eileen’s quest for living life to the fullest and helping others achieve the same thing.
Cancer Wellness Connections will continue to celebrate Eileen’s spirit with our program, helping people in our community find wellness during cancer care.
For more on Eileen, please visit our website www.CancerWellnessConnections.org to links to the beautiful tribute to Eileen written by Jim Memmot, for his column, Remarkable Rochestarians, and view Eileen’s speech at the Highland Hospital Heritage Award Dinner.