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Rose Holley’s Quest Against Cancer

Carrollton native Rose Holley has known cancer for all of her adult life. She’s known it as a caregiver and as a patient. She’s seen it claim the life of her mother, and she’s seen it beaten back in her own life.

Because cancer often runs in a family, Holley’s experience is not what makes her special. It’s the manner in which she has lived out her battle against cancer that has made her a bit of a celebrity among Tanner Health System’s cancer care team.

Rose HolleyHolley, a volunteer at Tanner Cancer Care and founder of the non-profit Hope For The Journey, was the overwhelming choice of Tanner’s staff to be nominated for the American Cancer Society’s Lane Adams Quality of Life Award.Cancer survivor Rose Holley

Northwest Georgia Oncology Center’s David Shepard, MD, described Holley as a “true angel of a woman.”

“I cannot give an accurate number of the occasions that I have opened the door to meet a new breast cancer care patient and have been greeted by Rose’s warm, smiling face in the room. This does a tremendous amount to ease the tension and fear that patients experience when first meeting their cancer care provider,” Dr. Shepard wrote in his nomination of Holley.

“Ms. Holley does not focus on her own battle with cancer as much as she utilizes her experience to provide inspiration for others,” he said.

Dr. Shepard was but one of many hailing the spirit and tireless dedication of Holley.

Board members at Hope For The Journey and breast cancer survivors joined in the parade of support for her as well.

“During my journey with breast cancer, she was my go-to person for questions about chemo, signs and symptoms, and what to expect during my treatment,” said Priscilla Clemons. “She always made the point to call or come by and see me, and never got tired of me asking the same questions. “

Holley’s mother, Rose Dumas, died of metastatic breast cancer in 1991. Dumas was 64 years old and had found a lump in her breast, but decided to wait until she turned 65 and qualified for Medicare to seek treatment.

Holley was her mother’s primary caregiver during the battle. Then, 12 years later, Holley noticed a lump in her own breast. She went to the doctor immediately and was diagnosed with HER-2/neu-positive medullary carcinoma in December 2003. She underwent surgery for a lumpectomy, three months of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation.

Since then, she’s had numerous scares, which resulted in benign tumors being removed from various parts of her body.

In 2009, tired of waiting for the next potential threat, she started Hope For The Journey, a grassroots organization to help patients to overcome barriers to care through education and support, both during and after cancer.

Hope For The Journey board member Melanie Kirby said Holley has been a blessing to many.

“Rose and her supporters work tirelessly to gain support for, and bring attention to, those living with breast cancer,” Kirby wrote in her nomination. “She helps us all understand the needs are far greater than just medical. There are spiritual, financial and emotional needs that must be addressed.”