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Longtime Nurse Treated for Rectal Cancer at Tufts Medical Center

March 18, 2024

Mary Roach, RN has been a nurse at Tufts Medical Center for more than three decades. When she was diagnosed with rectal cancer, she knew where she wanted to receive care.

Mary Roach, RN has been a nurse at Tufts Medical Center for 37 years and is now five years cancer free


“When I went in for a routine colonoscopy in 2019, I wasn’t thinking I was going to come out with cancer,” said Mary. “I had some mild rectal bleeding. That day, I found out it was rectal cancer.”

A treatment plan was immediately put in place by Lilian Chen, MD. Between January and November 2019, Mary underwent various therapies including radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Her surgery included removal of the rectal cancer with a temporary ileostomy. This ileostomy was subsequently reversed after she had fully healed. 

“I have never, ever regretted not going anywhere besides Tufts,” said Mary, who works in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) for Day surgeries. “Between Dr. Lilian Chen as my surgeon, our excellent Radiology Oncology Department and our GI Oncology Department, I had a great experience. Dr. Chen laid out my plan and there were never any surprises. She is a phenomenal physician.”

For Dr. Chen, caring for patients like Mary is a reminder of why she became a colorectal surgeon in the first place.

“As a colorectal surgeon, my work extends beyond the operating room; it’s about touching lives and fostering courage in the face of adversity,” said Dr. Chen. “It was my privilege to stand alongside Mary in her battle against rectal cancer, witnessing her unwavering bravery and resilience.

“Taking care of our own nurses like Mary, holds a special place in my heart, reminding me every day why I chose this path. Together, we defy the odds and inspire hope in the face of adversity.”

Last month, Mary got the all clear that she was five years cancer free.

“It was monumental,” she said. “It’s a path that I never want anybody to have to go down. Until you go through it as a patient, you don’t fully understand. It was a journey that was different than anything else I had ever been through.”

Emily Roach
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