When her surgeon called with the results of her biopsy, Lisa Roulhac was taking care of her two-year-old grandson.
“I’ll never forget that day. He was lying on the bed. My surgeon called me. ‘It’s cancer.’ I didn’t hear anything else. I couldn’t scream, because I was going to scare him to death if I screamed. I just didn’t hear anything after that.”
The tiny lump that Roulhac had found was diagnosed in July 2009 as stage one breast cancer. While the shock of the news kept her from hearing her surgeon’s referrals to an oncologist and a radiologist, it didn’t matter. Roulhac worked for Surburban Hematology and Oncology which is now part of the Cancer Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center. “I knew where I’d be treated. I’d be with family.”
“Once you get over the initial shock, you have to come up with a plan.” Roulhac’s plan included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation. She worked the entire time, timing treatments to minimize days out. A spot on her cervix prompted genetic testing and she ultimately had a hysterectomy, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgeon to provide the best prognosis. “I’ve got to live. I’ve got to raise these babies.”
Her experience makes her all the more empathetic with patients. “I know how patients feel, because I’ve been on the other side. A lot of times, I sit at my desk and I can see the fear in their face. I have to tell my coworkers, ‘Excuse me. Let me go out there. Look at me,’ I say. ‘I’ve been through it. I’m a survivor.'”
“Cancer teaches you not to take things for granted. It opens your eyes. You look at things in a whole different way,” explains Roulhac. “When you are struck with a tragedy or trial, you just have to keep the faith. You have to be positive. You have to pray. You can’t give up.”
Remarkably she says, “I didn’t get mad. And I never said, ‘Why me?’ I said, ‘God. Use me. Whenever you need to use me to help somebody else, use me.'”