Rosalind Griffin has two pieces of valuable, life-saving advice for every woman: conduct monthly self-checks and have an annual mammogram.
It was 12 years ago that Griffin found a lump that caused her reason for concern.
“I found it on a Saturday, saw a doctor on Wednesday and was diagnosed with breast cancer the next week,” said Griffin, Supply Chain Management Contracts Transactions manager at Alabama Power in Birmingham.
Thanks to her findings and early diagnosis, Griffin’s chemotherapy treatments at St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center in Birmingham proceeded swiftly. But none of it was easy.
During chemo, like many women who undergo grueling therapies for breast cancer, Griffin experienced many health hardships and was forced to take a brief medical leave.
“The treatments were very hard on me physically,” said Griffin, whose son and daughter were 11 and 8 years old, respectively. “My hair fell out. My nails turned black – they had black spots. The skin on the bottom of my feet peeled so deeply that I had to stop treatment, or I wouldn’t have been able to walk.
“At one point, I had ulcers in my throat, esophagus and stomach,” said Griffin, who noted she was emotionally uplifted by the support of her family and many friends during treatment. “It was hard to even swallow water.”
During that period, Griffin lost nearly 25 pounds. She completed several rounds of chemotherapy, then began to recover her physical strength.
“It’s a while before you start feeling better. It was a year, about 12 to 18 months before I really felt like myself again,” said Griffin, who has worked stints in Generation, Marketing, Corporate Real Estate and Supply Chain Management during her 33-year career at Alabama Power.
Keep calm, stay positive and carry on
Griffin believes that one’s state of mind is very important while undergoing difficult medical treatments.
“Chemo is tough,” Griffin said. She noted that everyone has different experiences – and varying side-effects – while undergoing treatment.
“I had a friend from my hometown who was in treatment at the same time,” Griffin recalled. “The treatments affected my sense of taste. I ate a lot of grits and crackers. But I remember one time, being in the room with my friend, and her husband bringing her a pound cake from the cafeteria and something else to eat during treatment.”
Griffin was incredulous at her friend’s appetite: “I said, ‘I can’t believe you’re eating that,’” she said, with a chuckle.
Staying upbeat is critical toward helping women regain their health, she believes.
“Stay positive,” Griffin said. “Your frame of mind has a lot to do with how well you will do. A positive state of mind is so important. You’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to hang in there.”
When Griffin completed her treatment, several of her girlfriends contributed to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA) in her honor.
“I said, ‘I want to get involved in that group. I want to do something; I want to give back,’” Griffin said.
She began volunteering with the BCRFA about 11 years ago. Griffin has assisted in fundraisers and serves on the foundation’s 25-member board.
Thanks to the BCRFA and researchers at UAB, Griffin noted, breast cancer treatments have advanced greatly in the past 25 years and even during the period she underwent chemotherapy. Since 1996, the BCRFA has donated nearly $10 million for life-saving research and more than $1 million to the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB and their collaborative partners.
“About 25 years ago, the statistics were sad: back then, only one in five women survived,” Griffin said, earnestly. “Now, it’s about four out of five women survive. That’s because of the research done at UAB and other cancer research centers. There are very smart people involved. … As a matter of fact, one of the drugs I took during my treatment was actually researched at UAB.”
Happy and healthy, it can be said that Griffin’s cup runneth over: she has plenty to look forward to in life.
“My 20-year-old daughter is in college now and my 23-year-old son is an engineer in Atlanta. … My husband retired last year. … It’s been fun working at Alabama Power and serving on the board of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama,” she said.