Rochelle’s story: Support from ‘a great village’

Dayton woman thriving through health journey.

Rochelle Jones, 52, delivers a straightforward yet encouraging message to women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer: “It’s not a death sentence; stay positive.”

The Dayton resident knows all too well this health news “is a lot to take in.” She was diagnosed Jan. 10 with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. “Shock was my initial reaction,” she recalled. “It was unbelievable; I never thought this could happen to me.”

Her daughter, Tia Jones, added the test results were “extremely scary.”

“It knocked me out for a couple of days,” said Rochelle, as she processed the diagnosis. But the self-described workaholic pressed on with remarkable grace.

After undergoing two separate rounds of chemotherapy from Feb. 4 to July 29 at the Kettering Health Cancer Center, Jones had a lumpectomy Aug. 19 on her right breast and three lymph nodes were removed. Reconstructive surgery followed, and now Jones awaits the start date for 20 rounds of daily radiation treatments. Rochelle, who took two weeks off for the surgery, added there was a 5% chance of the breast cancer returning.

Among Rochelle’s greatest cheerleaders in life is Tia, 27, who lives with her. Tia’s adorable son Tru, 2, and daughter Joi, 1, also reside at Rochelle’s home, and the children have provided an energetic yet precious support system.

“It’s great having them,” said Rochelle; and the women agreed their mother-daughter relationship transcends the usual bond. They rightly consider themselves best friends.

Tia cheerfully shops and cooks as Rochelle continues her work as the business and human resources administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 8. Rochelle says the hybrid work environment — and support — has been helpful, too.

“I have a great village,” Rochelle said, which also includes her mother, father and brothers Randy and Deshawn. She adds her sorority sisters at Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and the congregation at Macedonia Mississippi Baptist Church have been tremendous resources as well.

“It was nice to have people come over and bring meals,” Rochelle said. Tia, a certified nursing assistant, changed her mother’s bandages and tended to other health care needs, as did Rochelle’s sorority sister Danielle Brown. Rochelle said she also treasured immensely the Breast Cancer Awareness Month-themed gifts she has received, such as sweatshirts, a neck rest and cozy blankets.

“I’m very grateful,” she said.

Rochelle acknowledged her “pedal-to-the-metal” work ethic has kept constant worrying at bay. In fact, Rochelle is currently working on her doctoratein organizational leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University.

“I am very determined,” Rochelle said.

“She’s also very humble,” added Tia. “Our family always looks to her for advice.”

The surgery and treatment have altered Rochelle’s life in significant ways. During chemotherapy, for instance, Rochelle lost all her hair.

Rochelle’s hair, once black, has grown back as a beautiful snowy white. Although Tia reminds her young people are requesting platinum locks at hair salons, Rochelle reluctantly accepts her new hue.

And as other cancer patients can attest, not being able to attend the salon for regular manicures is something Rochelle has missed. Regardless, she emanates a natural inner glow that belies the medical facts she has faced this year.

Another downside of the chemo: A true dislike for sweets. “Sweets have a metallic taste now,” Rochelle said, adding that prior to treatment she had a definite penchant for sweet treats.

During a recent lunch, Rochelle ordered shrimp pasta and said the dish has been her go-to meal these days.

As she glanced at the menu, Rochelle briefly wiggled her fingers. She said she is still experiencing peripheral neuropathy, a chemo side effect that can cause numbness and pain.

But she realizes the side effects will eventually fade, as her medical team has assured her during the past year.

“I have great doctors,” Rochelle said. “They have been wonderful.”

What does the future hold for this go-getter?

Two weeks after her radiation treatment is completed, Rochelle will have regular follow-up tests for the next three years. If there is no evidence of cancer, Rochelle then will have an annual mammogram during years four and five.

Xeloda, which is a chemo medication that is taken orally, will be part of Rochelle’s continued treatment plan as well after the radiation.

And Rochelle and Tia are already planning the next family vacation. They talk about Jamaica and Hawaii as possible destinations. Tru and Joi giggle during this discussion, as if they, too, realize joyful adventures await them — despite their grandmother’s breast cancer journey.

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