In February 2020, Rose Taylor wanted to check the health care box on her routine mammogram. The previous year she had a melanoma spot removed from her calf.
To her surprise, the doctor saw a mass and recommended a biopsy – immediately.
“I remember holding my husband Doug's hand when the doctor said the words ‘breast cancer,’” Rose says.
Soon after, the Taylors met Dr. Michelle Haslinger, a specialist in breast cancer surgery. Gently, Dr. Haslinger said that to ensure the best outcome, Rose would need a mastectomy.
“Dr. Haslinger has a way of explaining medical care that helped me understand what needed to happen, and how quickly, while also giving the emotional support I needed,” Rose says.
Rose’s Cancer Diagnosis Competes with COVID-19
As Rose and Doug began to comprehend their news, COVID-19 was forcing the world to close.
“When I got my diagnosis, doctors were having to decide which surgeries were emergency or not. I was right on the edge,” Rose says. “Dr. Haslinger fought for my surgery to be considered an emergency. A few weeks later and my cancer would have easily qualified.”
On the day of her mastectomy, Doug dropped off Rose. The waiting rooms were closed because of COVID-19, so he went home and made enchiladas to pass the time.
A Quarantine Recovery
By the time he returned that evening, the whole hospital had closed for visitors.
“A nurse was walking out and I told him my wife just had a mastectomy and I had to see her. He asked me who her surgeon was and took me to the recovery floor,” Doug says. “He negotiated with the staff to get me five minutes with her. It meant everything to both of us.”
Because of COVID-19, Rose was sent home after just three days. Doug had instructions to meet the care team at the doors and to stay in his car. Rose and Doug then began a year of quarantine, just the two of them.
Soon after, Dr. Haslinger called to say the surgery was a success. the cancer was gone. Rose would not need radiation or chemotherapy.
Rose’s Reconstruction Surgery
For 6 months, Rose waited to be cleared for Dr. William Schmitt to perform her reconstruction surgery.
“When we met Dr. Schmitt and his nurse, Jenna, I couldn’t have imagined how important they would be in my healing process,” Rose says.
Finally, in October 2020, Rose went back to Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) for her second surgery. Again, Doug dropped her off and went home to wait.
“At the time, people still didn’t want to touch anyone. But Jenna sat with me and held my hand when I was in pain and scared when Doug couldn’t be there,” she says.
In the weeks after her surgery, Rose came back to VMMC because of an infection and some pain. Unexpectedly, Dr. Schmitt appeared in her room, even though it was his day off.
“I can’t fully express how it feels to have Dr. Haslinger advocate for me, which saved my life. And then have Dr. Schmitt and Jenna be there for me through my reconstruction in the middle of the pandemic. These are amazing people,” Rose says.
In celebration and gratitude, Rose made a gift to VMMC.
“I can never repay them, but the best way to say thank you was to help them keep giving excellent care. I also wrote to Dr. Gary Kaplan, Virginia Mason Medical Center’s longtime CEO who just retired. It was an emotional letter to write, but it felt important to share how grateful survivors like me are.”