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Survivor Story: Barb Rosen

barb-rosen2Written by Kristin Lindquist
When I hear the phrase “Into each life some rain must fall,” I think of the joy that comes with rain, not the rain that wrecks a moment or day. So, when I say, “Into each life, some Barb Rosen must fall,” I refer to a privileged experience. For one afternoon, my soul opened up to the constant pouring of wisdom from this woman – a 20-year survivor of cancer.

At 53, Barb Rosen is healthier and in better shape than she was during a period of her life which some could call a nightmare. Her story begins with the birth of her daughter. Her pregnancy was uneventful, but then rectal and abdominal pain became unbearable and eventually high blood pressure caused an emergency c-section. Barb was smart enough to have been a doctor. So when nothing made sense to her, she began researching the cause of her symptoms.

As part of the process to find the source of her abdominal pain, she found herself in the offices of her gynecologist, gastroenterologist and internal medicine doctor only to find out her hemoglobin was low. She also found out that she might have a bleeding ulcer and possible upper gastrointestinal issues. She began to have pain more frequently. While preparing for a colonoscopy, she ended up in the emergency room. After multiple tests and a colonoscopy, she was sent home with a “you are fine” report.

The pain heightened over the next weekend. She was too embarrassed to go back to the hospital. But eventually she gave in and was admitted at 2 am. While in the hospital, by chance, her father’s colorectal surgeon miraculously ran into Barb. He knew there had to be something wrong and ordered exploratory surgery. At 4:00 pm, Barb went into emergency surgery where they discovered her intestines were overlapping and hiding a tumor. The pain she had been feeling was not the cancer, but a symptom of intussusception. (An intussusception is a medical condition in which a part of the small intestine has in-vaginated into another section of intestine). She awoke to her husband telling her “everything is out. “ She thought for that moment, “What is out?” Her out of body experience started at that moment.

As the oncologist, nurses, and her one year-old visited over the next hours, she tried to listen to words about life expectancy and treatment.  She didn’t realize that they were talking about her until the next day when she read the medical chart.  She knew she had to get all the facts and a second opinion.

Dr. Mick Belzer of the Mayo Clinic considered Barb to be a 33 year-old mystery woman. He helped her make the decision to undergo treatment when he said, “If you were my wife, I would tell you to undergo chemo.” As far as Barb is concerned, he saved her life. Her family questioned her decision to undergo chemo and she had to convince them that her medical case was not the same as her father’s. Barb’s dad had recovered fine after removal of a tumor in the colon and no chemo in his 60’s.

Barb remembers her six months of chemotherapy; one week of treatment, which made her sick, and then three weeks afterwards when she was well enough to be out walking. She can still remember the smell of chemo and hair everywhere. She gained weight, which didn’t seem to make sense.

Today, Barb is a twenty-year survivor and a miracle cancer story. Her baby girl is turning twenty-two and her miracle baby girl she had after the cancer is eighteen. Twenty years ago she almost died, because at that time medical testing couldn’t detect her condition. Her story didn’t fit the medical bill.

Get Your Rear in Gear has been an amazing and exciting experience for Barb. She was totally blown away when she participated in the 2009 Edina event. She started out walking with WCCO-TV’s team. She soon found herself running.

Barb’s message to those diagnosed is to live life to its fullest and to not think of the diagnosis as a death sentence. She never stopped asking questions. Her steadfast belief in getting answers saved her life.

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