By Lizette Robles - September 10, 2021
For nearly 35 years, Christine Ellis has worked at Moffitt Cancer Center. She began her career in October 1986 shortly after the cancer center opened its doors. Ellis started out as a registered nurse on inpatient floor 4 north and has since served in several roles throughout the years. In 2003, she became a nurse practitioner (APRN) and eventually transitioned into her current role in the pre-anesthesia testing clinic.
“There was a time when we had about 200 employees,” Ellis recalled. “Most of us knew each other by our first names. We felt like family. I am amazed at the progress we have made in treatments and procedures and how well people are responding. I take great pride in letting people know I work at such a prestigious facility and have been for so long.”
The one role she never thought she’d be in was patient. In March 2011 just four months shy of her 50th birthday, Ellis was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer after undergoing a routine mammogram. She immediately underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. In 2013, the cancer returned. After additional surgery, Ellis started radiation therapy. All the while she continued working full time.
“My job was a great motivator,” Ellis shared. “I needed to get the cancer behind me so I could care for my patients.”
Although Ellis had worked at Moffitt for nearly three decades before cancer impacted her personally, she was still amazed at the care she received from her colleagues across the organization.
“Our staff takes great pride in their work,” Ellis said. “I had the option to be treated closer to my extended family up north, but I knew I was already in the best place.”
Ellis has a family history of breast cancer with several close relatives having faced the same diagnosis. Working in health care also appears to be in her genes. Her daughter Seanna is an oncology tech in the Bone and Marrow Transplant inpatient unit at Moffitt and is working on her RN degree. Her oldest son Keith is a nurse. He was motivated to pursue a career in the medical field by Ellis’s oldest sister who is a nurse anesthetist.
“Looking back on my journey with breast cancer and having overcome it, I’ve truly been able to reflect on Moffitt’s mission and what it means to me,” Ellis said. “I’m not only working to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer, but I also live the mission by undergoing routine screenings, making lifestyle changes to my diet and exercise routine, and encouraging my patients to do the same.”
Having been both a Moffitt patient and employee, Ellis offers some words of wisdom to others going through a journey with cancer.
“Whether you’re a patient, a provider, or in my case both, we all face challenges,” Ellis said. “How we navigate through those times really makes a difference. Have faith and never give up. Surround yourself with a small group of true friends. On the down days, they can be there to help lift your spirits and encourage you. On your good days, they are there to share the joy. Journaling and reading a daily devotion continues to strengthen me. I participate in Miles for Moffitt and other breast cancer walks. They give me a sense of belonging.”
On August 21, the Tampa Bay Rays honored Ellis at Tropicana Field through the Salute to Survivors program presented by Moffitt.
“It was very humbling,” Ellis said. “A lot of emotions came rushing back. I was just so grateful for God’s hand on my life and the people he placed alongside of me to share my journey.”