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The Story of The Rose

It was back in the 1980s when Dr. Dixie Melillo met Dorothy Weston-Gibbons at the Bayshore Medical Center in Pasadena.  Concerned about women’s access to early detection of breast cancer, they put their medical and marketing skills together to realize a dream that would become The Rose. 
 
You may not know that The Rose is named after a woman from Maryland named Rose Kushner.  The daughter of immigrant parents, she lost both her mother and father when she was only 10years old.  She aspired to a profession in medicine, and after high school she worked at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, taking some pre-med courses at Baltimore Junior College.  But like many young women of the time, Rose opted to start a family and married Harvey Kushner in 1951.  They had three children, and by the 1960s, Rose was anxious to get back to a career.  She changed her focus to journalism, and in 1972 received an A.B. degree summa cum laude from the University of Maryland. 
 
Rose was 45 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974.  As a journalist, she was prone to asking a lot of questions!  At that time, it was considered standard medical procedure to perform a ‘1-step’ tumor biopsy and radical mastectomy in a single surgery.  (This procedure removed the breast, the underarm lymph nodes and both chest wall muscles – started by surgeon William Halsted in the early 1900s.) 
 
Rose did the research – and found that some doctors were performing biopsies first, and only then deciding if a complete mastectomy was necessary.  Of course doctors, especially back then, don’t usually like to be challenged on their diagnoses.  She was finally able to convince her family surgeon to perform only a biopsy.  When he found cancerous cells, the doctor berated her for not having agreed to the 1-step procedure.  She had trouble finding a surgeon willing to do a modified radical mastectomy, which would preserve her chest wall muscles.  When she finally found someone to do the procedure, they found a 1-cm tumor.   
 
During her recovery, Rose set out to spread the word about her breast cancer experience.  She traveled to Europe to research treatment options there.  The 1-step radical mastectomy she refused was already being rejected by many doctors outside the U.S. – and she wanted to make sure women were informed.  (Remember, this was before you could just ‘Google’ it!)  She believed that every woman needed to know 3 things:  that the 1-step ‘Halsted method’ mastectomy was outdated; that cancer specialists, not general surgeons, could provide the best care; and that women needed to inform themselves and take a more active role with their doctors in decisions concerning their breast cancer.  Rose wrote about her experiences for The Washington Post, and published her first book on the subject in 1975, ‘Why Me?  What Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer to Save Her Life.’ 
 
Now considered a champion for women and innovation in breast cancer treatment, Rose Kushner was considered a trouble-maker at the time.  “Booed off the stage” in a speech to the Society of Surgical Oncology, her book was even criticized by the American Cancer Society. 
 
But some people were listening.  Even after Rose’s cancer returned in 1981, she served on the National Cancer Advisory Board.  She co-founded the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations, and was appointed to the Breast Cancer Task Force of the American Cancer Society in 1989.  Just days before her death in 1990, Rose was lobbying via phone for the government to require insurance to include coverage for mammograms. 
 
With early detection and treatment, there is a 99% survival rate after five years breast cancer is diagnosed.  The Rose was created to give all women that chance to beat breast cancer, regardless of their insurance coverage or ability to pay.  A mammogram costs $100 at The Rose (for those who can pay), with results in five days.  If needed, same-day results can be obtained.  Every paid mammogram helps offset the costs of those who cannot pay. 
 
The Rose depends on community support and fundraisers, as well as physicians, volunteers and employees who continue the mission started by Dixie, Dorothy and Rose Kushner.  
 
You can take part in our Pink Ribbon Raffle and make your donation below:
 

 

 

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