Feelings, emotions, concerns, symptoms, effects of treatments and even her puzzles – these are just some of the things Siteman Cancer Center volunteer Rose Winkle shares with the patients she assists. But, that’s because she is a patient herself – a survivor of one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer.
In the summer of 2018 an MRI scan revealed a tumor in Winkle’s brain. Doctors initially hoped for the best, but the pathology revealed the tumor was glioblastoma multiform
“He had initially thought it was Grade 2, which is technically a benign glioma” she said. “But after the pathology and the mutations present, they found that it’s actually grade 4 glioblastoma rather than glioma.”
Winkle is a St. Louis native and a graduate of Lindbergh High School, Webster University (bachelor’s degree) and Washington University (master’s degree). She has three sisters and a brother, and she hopes to one day finish her third degree and work in healthcare.
At the time of her diagnosis, Winkle was pursuing that third degree – a medical degree – at Lincoln Memorial University-Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tenn. While studying, she began to notice symptoms and her academic performance declined. Winkle says she remembers struggling and feeling depressed and anxious. The tumor would even lead to a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder.
“It greatly affects my short-term memory, hence the diagnosis of ADD,” Winkle said.
Due to her academic performance suffering, the college dismissed her. But when the tumor was found, it explained her decline and the school brought her back. However, she only lasted a few weeks before realizing she wouldn’t be able to continue on until she recovered, something the puzzles help her with.
“I’ve been doing puzzles a lot, and that probably sounds kind of weird, but it’s challenging myself to be able to find the right pieces to put things together,” Winkle said. “After I finish it, I will be bringing each puzzle to the Siteman location.”
While studying for her master’s at Washington University a few years back, she became a pre-med volunteer at Siteman. After becoming a patient and being successfully treated, she made the decision to go back to volunteering – this time as a patient volunteer. She says now she understands so much more about what patients are going through, and that makes her an even better volunteer who is able to share empathize and share helpful messages.
During her treatment, Winkle has underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. She says she’ll never be considered to be in remission, but her cancer is being held at bay.
“I have completed my treatments and right now…and so I will never meet remission,” Winkle said. “But I am looked at as in steady state, and I’m on preventative medication because there still are bits of a tumor in my left temporal lobe.”
Winkle doesn’t deny that cancer treatment has its difficult moments, but she shares this advice that helped get her through:
“I take it a little bit at a time,” she said. “And knowing that if you take just small steps and you reach that point where your bigger goals are met, it’s so much easier to get through treatment. Just looking at it one day at time, one day closer to your goals.”