A brilliantly talented violinist, Rodica Gonzalez has not only been treated for breast cancer, but also several other cancers. Her story is not only amazing, but exceptionally inspiring.
Rodica Gonzalez, a violinist who joined the Houston Symphony in 1990, came to the US from Romania in July 1987 to study violin performance at Rice University. Rodica’s story is one of triumphs and struggles all at the same time.
In 2003, after noticing some oddly shaped bumps on her leg, a biopsy revealed melanoma. She continued to monitor her skin, and in April 2005, she found a nodule on her left breast. Rodica immediately called her physician who told her to come in right away. Little did she know she would spend her husband, Robert’s, 40th birthday undergoing a lumpectomy, which would reveal stage 2 carcinoma.
At the same time, April 2005, the Fidelis Quartet in which Rodica played was invited to make their debut at Carnegie Hall in June 2005. This opportunity of a lifetime was especially unique because Rodica’s sister, Mihaela, was also a member of this Houston Symphony quartet. When Rodica received word that it would be imperative for her to undergo chemotherapy for the next six months and radiation for the next six weeks, she was determined not to let this hurdle stand in the way of playing at Carnegie Hall that June. What most people do not realize is that in undergoing treatment, essentially her arm was frozen, making it a little difficult to practice the violin. So, in addition to her treatment, which included chemotherapy once a week, she was undergoing intense physical therapy to be prepared for the performance.
And so it was in June 2005, Rodica went for chemo on Monday, headed to New York on Tuesday, rehearsed with her quartet throughout the week, played at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, and went straight back to MD Anderson for chemo the following Monday. In December 2005, she completed her six month round of chemotherapy. Over the next year and half, doctors continued to monitor her levels with constant blood tests, and Rodica appeared to be on the road to health and wellness.
Soon after the arrival of her son, Matthew, Rodica was experiencing uncomfortable pain in her abdomen. In 2007, she was diagnosed with endometrial sarcoma. Her surgeon removed a polyp, which was barely attached to the uterus. He explained that she was very lucky because it had not spread to any of her other organs.
Back in full recovery mode once again, and enjoying every moment watching her son grow up, a cough sent her back to the doctor. Originally diagnosed with pneumonia, doctors ordered routine CT scans for few years as they noticed shadows on her lungs. After a routine check up in 2014, a lung biopsy revealed neuroendocrine carcinoid on her left lung. Laproscopic surgery was ordered, and it was removed right away.
Although Rodica had been tested for the BRCA gene early on, in 2014, her doctors ordered tests for 18 other genes since it was not normal to have been diagnosed with so many other cancers. It was determined that she has Li Fraumeni Syndrome. The mutation can trigger other cancers, especially brain and pancreatic.
Rodica continues to play full time in the Houston Symphony. She gets skin check-ups every four months. She had had four biopsies the day before we spoke. Her doctors order her to have a full body MRI at least one time a year. In 2015, she had 11 MRIs. However, despite these challenges, Rodica goes about her day as a loving mother, devoted wife, and brilliantly talented violinist. Truly inspired by her story, the Emma Jacob’s Breast Cancer Foundation cannot thank her enough for taking the time to share her life with us.
Written by Kelly Kronfeld