Two-time cancer survivor urges people to listen to their body, ask for help while fighting the disease

SAN ANTONIO – “You have cancer” is something no one ever wants to hear. But San Antonian Roxanne Toscano had to hear the life-changing news twice.

Toscano was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 and uterine cancer in 2021.

“Being diagnosed with cancer twice wasn’t an end-all for me,” she said.

Breast cancer diagnosis

After her first diagnosis in 2019, Toscano needed to have a double mastectomy, which is when both breasts are removed, according to the American Cancer Society.

The double mastectomy was the best way to stop the spread of cancer through Toscano’s body, but it took a toll on her physically and mentally.

“They took my belly skin and then put it on my chest, so I looked like a Barbie doll. It was hard looking at myself in the mirror and being positive about my outcome,” Toscano said.

Following Toscano’s surgery, she was able to undergo breast reconstruction surgery to help her feel more like herself.

Endometrial cancer diagnosis

Fast forward two years, and Toscano is in the same situation. She had cancer again, but this time, it was in her uterus.

Specifically, Toscano had endometrial cancer. The National Cancer Institute says endometrial cancer is when cancer cells form in the tissues of the endometrium.

In Toscano’s case, the cancer was caught early, but it meant she had to lose another body part once again. Toscano underwent hysterectomy surgery, which means she no longer has a uterus.

Between both cancers and her multiple surgeries, Toscano’s mental health rapidly declined.

“I just felt hopeless. I just stopped doing everything I enjoyed doing. I just went into this dark place,” said Toscano.

After family and friends pushed her to get some help, Toscano researched organizations in our community that help cancer patients and survivors. Her research led her to get involved with the ThriveWell Cancer Foundation.

Partnering with ThriveWell

ThriveWell was founded in 2007 by a local oncologist. The organization’s goal is to provide services to cancer patients and survivors. They do so through two programs:

    • Free exercise, nutrition and wellness opportunities for patients and survivors

“The goal of that program is to reduce the chance of recurrence in a patient’s disease,” said Erin Ercoline, executive director of ThriveWell Cancer Foundation.

    • Provides transportation, lodging and financial assistance to patients who are struggling

“For lots of San Antonio families, a cancer diagnosis can be financially catastrophic,” Ercoline said.

On average, ThriveWell cares for about 2,000 people every year. Over the past 10 years, Ercoline said they have helped over 10,000 patients and survivors. The organization is especially helpful to those patients who have to quit their jobs to get treatment.

“With radiation alone, that’s typically every day for six to eight weeks. So that’s coupled with a co-pay every day for six to eight weeks. You can see how that would quickly zap a savings plan,” said Ercoline.

For Toscano, the financial aspect wasn’t as important as the friendships she gained from the foundation.

“ThriveWell allowed me to be with other people who have experienced, or had experienced, everything that I did,” Toscano said.

Toscano said getting a cancer diagnosis was one of the hardest times in her life, but she is now cancer free. She is still recovering in some ways but said everyone needs to be confident in speaking with doctors when they think something might be wrong.

“We have to be an advocate for ourselves. There’s no one who is going to take care of us better than ourselves,” said Toscano.

You can learn more about ThriveWell by clicking here or by calling its phone number at 210-593-5949.

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