• Cancer

    After Beating Cancer, It’s the Patient Leading the Physician

Mitzi and Dr. Cockerill 2

Mitzi Roberts, 48, of Mankato, Minn., has been a dancer all of her life. She’s made dancing her livelihood and owns the Dance Express dance studio. On top of her penchant for dancing and operating her business, she decided three years ago to add a Mankato-based dance competition fundraiser to her list of to-dos. However, she wasn’t prepared for the challenge that would appear on the scene during planning stages in the event’s second year.

October 2013 Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It took the wind out of my sails for a day or two,” Roberts says of the diagnosis.

But she quickly turned a corner and started thinking more optimistically. Roberts continued planning for the 2014 Dancing with the Mankato Stars, which helped keep her mind off the negatives. She also found hope in her Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato oncologist, Kevin Cockerill, M.D.

Feb. 13, at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, the two-person team took to the dance floor and competed in Dancing with the Mankato Stars to raise money for the American Red Cross. *They scored three "10's" and won the judge's choice!Dancing with the Mankato Stars - Mitzi and Dr Cockeril

“Dr. Cockerill’s positive outlook was very helpful,” adds Roberts. “He only talked about the best-case scenarios. He didn’t let my mind go to the dark place.”

Now, after successful treatment and two popular events, Roberts visits Dr. Cockerill for other reasons — as his 2015 Dancing with the Mankato Stars dance partner. Roberts gets a little choked up when she articulates what it’s like to enter the doors of Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato after beating breast cancer.

“Coming as a partner versus coming as a patient — totally a full-circle moment,” says a misty-eyed Roberts.

Dr. Cockerill led Roberts through her journey, and now it’s her turn to lead him on the dance floor. They’ve grown their relationship, and the chemistry between the two is palpable.

“It’s not surprising for an oncologist to become close friends with a patient,” says Dr. Cockerill. “I get to know these people sometimes better than certain family members. There’s nothing more rewarding as an oncologist than to be a part of a patient’s life. I’m honored.”

Dr. Cockerill compliments Roberts’ drive and positivity, both with the event and her battle with cancer. In fact, he uses the word “heroic” to describe her.

“To devote yourself to such a charity when you yourself have had so many troubles, it’s extraordinary,” says Dr. Cockerill.

Click here to read the Mankato Free Press story about Mitzi and Dr. Cockerill.