Ellen: Giving Back Blessings
Though she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Ellen, of Pikesville, MD knew right away that she was blessed.
She still knows it, and she shares that blessing - and the doctor and hospital behind it - every chance she gets.
The source of Ellen’s providence and gratitude wasn’t so much the terrible disease itself. That was devastating. What fulfilled her was the care, and the eyes, and what she calls the “magic” hands of the physician who would treat her cancer: Mercy’s Dr. Neil Rosenshein, Director of The Ovarian Cancer Institute at Mercy.
The Man Who Would Save Her Life
Perhaps it was pure chance that in February 2000, Ellen would meet the man who would diagnose and then heal her. Perhaps it was not. Ellen’s long-time gynecologist had retired. “I intended to find a new doctor and in speaking with other women, the name Dr. Rosenshein kept coming up again and again,” Ellen said. “I didn’t think I had any problems, but I did know who I would call if the time arrived. I wanted to be treated by the best.”
Sometimes from great loss will come new life. February 2000 was a time that Ellen and her family were grieving. Her grandmother, her father, and her father-in-law had each passed away in a short span of time. “I would often feel their presence,” Ellen noted. “Particularly my father.” That presence, she said, “tapped her on the shoulder” on a sunny day in February, encouraging her to make that phone call to the gynecologist at Mercy that she’d heard about.
She listened. A few weeks later, she met the doctor she would eventually call simply “Neil,” dispensing with the formalities, reflecting her personal feelings for the man who would save her life.
That first appointment at Mercy proved providential on several levels. Ellen found out she was not as well as she had thought. But she also discovered that what she’d heard was absolutely right. She’d been led to a doctor who is not just a gifted surgeon and gynecologic oncologist, he is a physician who passionately cares.
During her initial exam, Dr. Rosenshein felt something in Ellen’s abdomen that wasn’t right, and insisted she have a sonogram in the next two days. “I immediately began to panic,” she said. The sonogram would show an abnormality, and for the first time in her life, Ellen would hear the word “mass” associated with her.
Over the following weekend, she would trade phone messages with Dr. Rosenshein, and despite the uncertainty, she would find some assurance.
“Each time he would begin with the words “Ellen, this is Dr. Rosenshein, you’re going to be fine.” She knew, she said, that she would be fine. But she wasn’t. Not then. Dr. Rosenshein asked Ellen what her schedule was over the next few weeks. Two weeks later she was checking in to Mercy for surgery, a hysterectomy, during which Dr. Rosenshein found malignancies on both of her ovaries – Stage I ovarian cancer.
But again, Ellen was blessed. “Only five percent of women are diagnosed in Stage I,” she said. “Because of my early diagnosis, the survival rate jumps to 95 percent. I’m here today because of Neil Rosenshein.”
That night after the surgery, Dr. Rosenshein visited Ellen in her hospital room at Mercy. “Ellen,” he said again, “you are going to be fine.” She wouldn’t know if that were precisely true for another week, when the pathology report was completed. It was a Saturday morning, several days short of a week, that Dr. Rosenshein received the reports and called her. “Thankfully, his patients are so important to him he was in the office on a Saturday and called me as soon as he received the reports,” Ellen noted. The report was clean. Ellen was fine.
She would undergo three chemotherapy sessions, and during each overnight stay for the treatment, “Neil” would visit her. By Memorial Day she was finished, and a week later, while attending a wedding, the song ”I Will Survive,” came on. “My husband Alan and I danced to it,” Ellen recalled. “It was a powerful moment. It had been a challenging time, but we’d made it through. We were extremely grateful.”
Ellen continues to be grateful, and every chance she gets she gives back some of what she received from Mercy and Neil Rosenshein. She has publicly praised Dr. Rosenshein in speeches at a Mildred Mindell Cancer Foundation dinner honoring him as Humanitarian of the Year, and at Mercy on National Cancer Survivor’s Day. Her message is consistent – I am here today because of Mercy and its staff, and my family, and Dr. Rosenshein. And I am so thankful.
Sharing Hope With Others
As a cancer survivor, she shares her experience and hope with others. She recommends Dr. Rosenshein and Mercy to as many women who ask or need their own blessings in their journey back to good health.
“That’s what women do, we share, we look out for one another,” she said. “I’ve had some incredible experiences with Mercy and Dr. Rosenshein. The first time I wrote him an email about someone I know who had called me and had some health concerns and he said ‘send me her contact information,’ and he got in touch with her the next day. I even have a friend in Atlanta who had cancer and I called Sister Helen Amos, who is the Executive Chair of the Board of Trustees for Mercy, to ask her some questions. She called me back in five minutes. It never occurred to me to not call her. That’s the impression you get at Mercy - they really care.”
It has now been 14 years since that day Ellen first stepped into Dr. Rosenshein’s office. One year to the day later she would celebrate not only being cancer free, but the birth of her granddaughter, Sophie. Ellen is alive and loving life and grateful to those who helped her get here.
“Even though he’s incredibly busy, Neil always made me feel like I was the only patient he had, and that he had all the time in the world to spend with me. He makes all his patients feel that way. He’s a special doctor.
“The compassion and encouragement I received, not just from family and friends but from everyone I encountered at Mercy was overwhelming. From the nurses and doctors to the person who parks the cars, the excellent treatment I received at Mercy was overwhelming. If Mercy ever needed a face to recommend it,” she added, “I’d be that face. I would recommend Mercy to anyone. They’re just wonderful people.”