Gretchen’s Story: Cancer Teaches Teacher a Lesson

After more than 30 years teaching others, it was Gretchen Roeth’s turn to learn – during her battle with cancer.

A retired fourth grade teacher in the Piqua schools, Gretchen was diagnosed with endometrial cancer after checking with doctors when “something didn’t seem right.”

She underwent 31 radiation treatments at the Cancer Care Center at Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC).

Teacher Becomes Student

“I was nervous. I was afraid. My blood pressure went through the ceiling,” Gretchen recalls. “All of the cancer care therapists walked me through things. They knew I was a mess, but they were very good with it. Everybody was very patient with me.”

Jean Heath, director of the Cancer Care Center, said the center prides itself on individualized care for patients. “We know every time somebody walks through our front door, they have the fear of what is behind it. They ask, ‘What is going to happen to me?’” Heath says. “Our staff knows everyone is different. It is not a cookie-cutter process.”

Gretchen said her sister-in-law encouraged her to undergo treatment at UVMC due to her positive experience of being treated for breast cancer at the Cancer Care Center a few years earlier. “I talked to her quite a bit. She was very helpful. She said, ‘You don’t want to go someplace else. They can take care of you.’ And, they did. I felt like I was The Patient. I never felt like I was a number.”

After reading pamphlets provided by caregivers, talking with doctors, and researching on the internet, Gretchen felt more comfortable.

But she never hesitated to ask questions. To prepare for appointments, she wrote down questions to ask, so she wouldn’t forget any.

‘No Question Too Stupid’

“No question was too stupid. I never felt like I asked a question that they didn’t want to answer,” Gretchen says.

Heath said the center advises patients looking on the internet to visit reputable sites such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. “There is so much information out there that it can overwhelm you, and some of the information is not accurate,” Heath says.

Among lessons Gretchen learned on her cancer treatment journey was the importance of documentation. She compiled a family medical history including information on events, such as when she, her husband, Gary, and their parents were diagnosed with cancer.

“I have shared it with my kids so we all know what happened to everybody. It has been very helpful,” says Gretchen, who works part time at the Piqua YWCA. She and Gary have two children and a granddaughter.

‘Know Your Body’

She says, “A doctor told me to know your body, listen to your body. If something isn’t right or it bothers you, then go see somebody about it. To me, it was like other people have cancer, but that wasn’t going to happen to me. Then, when it did, it was like, ‘Oh, gosh, I really need to be a lot more aware.’ I have learned.”

Although she was scared, Gretchen says she took a positive approach to her treatment. “You learn that life is precious and you take care of things. It is a whole attitude. People can make it horrible, and it doesn’t have to be horrible. There are better days ahead.”

Advice From Gretchen Roeth

  • Be comfortable with your doctor. Know your doctor.
  • Know what is ahead as far as you can.
  • Bring questions to your doctor and treatment appointments.
  • Take care of yourself. If you have any symptoms or signs, have them checked out.
  • Be persistent.
  • Compile a family history for your use, and your children’s.

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