Two-time Cancer Survivor Recognized by Wilmot Radiation Oncologists

December 10, 2007

Georgiana Giuliano Zicari has faced cancer twice and the experiences have made her a vigilant advocate for more research to find cures. Her dedication to supporting people with cancer and the doctors and scientists working for cures is a source of inspiration for many at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Radiation oncologists recognized Zicari for her efforts during its annual holiday party Saturday evening.  She received the Nathaniel Rutter Inspirational Patient Award.

“She is a remarkable woman who exemplifies survivorship, making her personal and professional life a passionate affirmation of all that the world can offer,” said Louis “Sandy” Constine, M.D., deputy chair of Radiation Oncology.  He has cared for Zicari for more than 15 years.

Zicari was 15 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.

“I was very angry when I was diagnosed because I couldn’t get my head around it all,” she remembers.  “I was a typical teenager and worried about losing my hair and all of those sorts of things.”

After six months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to her chest and neck. She moved on and graduated from Greece Arcadia High School in 1994 and then Ithaca College, where she studied health education. She was cancer free for 14 years.

Grateful for her care and committed to helping others, Zicari spent many hours volunteering in the pediatric oncology clinic at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong and Camp Good Days and Special Times, helping children with cancer.

She also got involved with the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Alliance for Childhood Cancers, lobbying Congress for more cancer research funding.

Two years ago, she noticed that her voice was becoming hoarse and then spotted a swollen lymph node in her neck.  Tests showed it was thyroid cancer that had already spread, or metastasized. 

“I hadn’t thought about cancer in a long time….I was so scared and angry,” Zicari said. 

Vaseem Chengazi, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Imaging Sciences, delivered four treatments with radioactive iodine to treat the thyroid cancer. “He was so patient and kind when we went through the process,” she said. Wilmot oncologists are closely monitoring her progress.

Doctors suspect the thyroid cancer may be a long-term side-effect of her previous radiation therapy. Sadly, some cancer treatments may increase patients’ risk of developing a second cancer. Wilmot Cancer Center oncologists and scientists have established the international Cancer Survivorship Research and Education Program to study ways to improve the quality of life and support the millions of cancer survivors.  Constine is leading the research effort with a large team of radiation, medical and pediatric oncologists.

Zicari was married earlier this year and works in medical sales for General Electric. “I look forward to moving on with my life and right now I’m doing it in six-month increments,” she said.

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Leslie White
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