It was a day in 2010 that will be indelibly etched in the mind of Houston cancer survivor Rosie Butler. After a grim prognosis from her doctor in Birmingham, Alabama, she thought she might not see another day without emergency surgery.
“I was in the hospital fighting for my life,” Butler said. “When I went to say goodbye to my sons, I thought that might be the last time I would see them. It really touched me when I woke up in Intensive Care and remember seeing the sunlight streaming through the window. I thought I was in Heaven. I kept saying, ‘God, I made it,’ But the nurse said, you’re still with us!”
It was that pivotal moment during the encounter with the nurse when Butler realized she would continue fighting to get well and recover.
“Tears just started rolling down,” Butler said. “I thought that I’ve got to fight to get out of here. That was two weeks in intensive care.”
This wasn’t the first time Butler faced a brush with death due to a debilitating disease. In the 1990s, she endured a tough battle with liver disease that nearly cost her life. For three decades, Butler has valiantly fought two forms of cancer, breast and cervical. When her youngest son was born with liver disease, she knew she had no other choice but to keep on fighting.
“I fought my way back to live again, because I thought I have this little human being to care for,” Butler said.
Touted as a formidable force of nature who helped raise $25 million for liver disease and cancer research, 65-year-old Butler firmly believes in giving back to cancer research. Butler serves on the Community Research Advisory Board (CRAB) for the University of Houston’s HEALTH Research Addictions and Cancer Prevention.
“As much research is being done, cancer is still very prevalent and is one of the leading causes of death in this country,” Butler said. “So, when you’re able to tell the story and participate in opportunities that bring much-need dollars to the table, that awareness is impactful. I’m honored to be a part of this organization.”
HEALTH Research Institute’s co-founder, Dr. Lorraine Reitzel invited Butler to join the CRAB board after she witnessed first-hand Butler’s courageous, compassionate voice in her fight against cancer.
“She is relentless—the type of person who will call you from her hospital bed to provide her wisdom,” Dr. Reitzel said. “She has such a drive to help others and to prevent the chronic diseases that she herself continues to battle. She is the quintessential ‘giver,’ she is so dedicated, so passionate about helping others. She is truly unstoppable, and we are so fortunate to have her be an integral part of our Center.”
As of 2021, Butler has been cancer-free for five years, and she announces that with this infectious joy in her voice.
“I asked God to spare my life and allow me to live, so that I can help others” Butler said. “And there were so many remarkable people put in my path. I’m blessed to be here. I want to tell other people that you can literally walk through fire and come out unscathed.”
By Alison Medley