Rocking the Pink

Finding Myself on the Other Side of Cancer


By Laura Roppé

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In 2008, just as Laura Roppé was poised to burst onto the music scene, her doctor called her with news that left her spinning—she had been diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. Just days earlier, she had signed a dream-come-true contract with a record label; now, she wasn’t even sure how much longer she had to live.

Never one to back down to a challenge, however, Roppé gathered her courage, took stock of her priorities, and made a decision: Cancer may take my hair, she told herself, but that’s all it’s getting. More than a cancer journey, Rocking the Pink is a quirky, charming, and poignant ode to love, friendship, and music. Roppé is unflinchingly honest and unfailingly funny as she tells the story of her odyssey: from childhood dreamer and giddy valet parker to the Hollywood stars to disillusioned lawyer, wife, and mother; from budding songwriter and late-blooming recording artist to determined cancer survivor. 

Full of raw emotion and humor that will make you laugh through your tears, Rocking the Pink is a chronicle of discovering one's true self through life’s difficult circumstances—and a testament to the hang-in-tough, take-no-prisoners attitude it takes to kick cancer’s butt.


For Brad, my love.
For Sophie, my compass.
For Chloe, my future coconspirator.

Throughout the telling of this story, Laura Roppé references several of her self-penned songs, either as a plot point or as a lyrical window into her thoughts in a particular situation. To find out how to download some of Laura's music for free, go to

Chapter 1
On a sunny morning in mid-October 2008, a whiplash-inducing phone call from my surgeon hijacked my life to the hinterlands of hell. It was a startling reversal of fortune: That very day, the Los Angeles Daily Journal had featured a two-page article about me entitled "In the Long Run, San Diego Lawyer Decides to Face the Music," and I was squealing with delight as I devoured every complimentary word. The article detailed how I'd been inspired to follow my midlife musical dreams after running my first full marathon.
I'd had an implausible stretch of good luck since I'd released my album two months earlier—my new record label was about to fly me to England to shoot a music video!—and now here was my elated face, smack on the front page of a respected newspaper. The photo was flattering, thankfully—my Jay Leno chin was barely noticeable as my body leaned over the impressive control panel in the recording studio. I reached for the phone, bursting at the seams to share this triumph with my husband, Brad.
Just as I was about to dial, my surgeon called.
Oh, yeah, that whole thing.
Three days earlier, mostly to placate Brad, I'd gone in for a biopsy of an "almost certainly" benign lump in my left breast. I wasn't alarmed. I knew I didn't have cancer. Even uttering the C-word sounded melodramatic, like an attention-seeking stunt. I was only thirty-seven, and there was no history of the disease in my family. Plus, I'd just run a marathon, for Pete's sake.
"Oh, hi, Doc," I greeted him. "How are you?" I paused, expecting to hear his relieved chuckle.
"Laura," the doctor began. He wasn't chuckling. My stomach lurched unexpectedly as he cleared his throat. "I've got some bad news . . . "
I didn't recognize my own voice as I let out a rasping wail. My legs gave way, and I collapsed onto the couch.
The doctor was still talking. His words came to me in fragments, as if he had bad cell phone reception: " . . . down to my office right away . . . treatment plan . . . so sorry . . . "
My brain was melting down. Had he just used the word "cancer"? About me?
Brad. That was all I could think, over and over again. I struggled to remember his phone number at work, a number I'd called a million times. I finally got through and heard his familiar, unsuspecting voice.
"Brad," I gasped. My voice sounded garbled and foreign to me.
"Babe, can I call you right back? I've got to—"
"It's cancer, Buddy. Come home!" I was bawling. "Come home. Right now!" I was shrieking.
"I'm on my way," he said, panic raging underneath his controlled voice.
I couldn't remember who I'd been before I loved Brad. I had to go way back—to memories of losing a tooth or hanging Duran Duran posters on my bedroom walls—to conjure a firm recollection of my pre-Brad self. I'd met him twenty-three years earlier, at a summer party when I was fourteen years old, though I'd lied and said I was fifteen. Not the best way to start off one's relationship with a future spouse, but who knew I was meeting my future husband at fourteen years old? And, in my defense, I was just two months shy of my birthday, so I was practically fifteen.
Brad was sixteen years old, and in the prime of health and fitness, when I first laid eyes on him. He had just competed in a triathlon, and he had the eight-pack abs to prove it. He stood six feet, four inches tall and had blond hair and blue eyes—a classic California surfer boy. He would have caught any girl's eye. Except mine. No, I didn't notice Brad at first, because I had my eye on an age-inappropriate lifeguard at the party (who, to his credit, wasn't the least bit interested in a fourteen-year-old child). While my boy-crazy eye was trained on that curly-haired lifeguard, Brad approached and invited me to walk on the beach. I figured, why not?
As we ambled along the waterline, I noticed his wildly patterned, electric blue, baggy pants.
"I like your pants," I said in earnest.
"Thanks. My grandma made 'em for me."
Well, that was adorable. And sort of . . . rogue, in a perverse way. And, coincidentally, that very night, I was sporting bright yellow shorts dotted with pineapples, paired with a mismatched Hawaiian shirt—my own way of railing against the ubiquitous preppy look of the day. We looked good together, in a Jackson Pollock sort of way.
Brad was a year ahead of me in school. He'd been class president. And he loved to surf and spearfish. Spearfish? Like Christopher Atkins in The Blue Lagoon? He told me my brown eyes were hypnotizing him. I blushed.
"Are your parents married?" I asked, changing the subject.
"Divorced. When I was nine. I live with my dad and brother."
"Mine, too. When I was seven. I live with my mom and sister." Our symmetry was obvious. We just fit.
Out of sheer glee, I spontaneously rolled down a sand dune on the beach, just for the fun of it. He thought that was funny, and he let out a silly, high-pitched laugh that cracked me up. And then he kissed me, and the resulting tingles shot all the way down to my toes. An hour of talking and kissing later, Brad asked, "Can I give you a lift home in my 'Vette?"
"Sounds great."
When we had reached Brad's car, a short distance away, I was surprised to find a worn-out, steel gray Chevy Chevette sitting in front of me. "Nice 'Vette," I giggled. This was not the sparkling Corvette I had envisioned. And that suited me just fine. Considerably charmed, I got into the car.
After Brad had dropped me off at home, I crawled into bed, exhausted but floating on cloud nine. Five minutes later, before I could even drift off to sleep, my phone rang. It was Brad, calling to say good night, a romantic gesture in the age before cell phones.
"Can I see you tomorrow?" Brad wanted to know.
"Of course." I smiled into the phone. "Good night."
Who on earth has her actual, handwritten diary from the day she met her future husband, at age fourteen? Well, I do. I must be one of, like, seven people in the history of the world. At any rate, my diary entry from August 20, 1985, states:
I have met someone who [sic] I really like . . . . Brad is the most wonderful, thoughtful, sincere, loveable, sensitive, cute person I've ever met. . . . He's so wonderful, I'm positive you' ll be hearing about him for a long time to come.
Supernatural psychic? Probably not. Despite my apparent gift for prophesy at age fourteen, I had no idea what "a long time to come" meant. One week was an eternity for me. I could not have predicted that eight years later, Brad and I would vow to love, honor, and cherish each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. I had no idea that ten years after that first night, Brad and I would toss our law school graduation caps into the air—or that I would later ditch my successful but unfulfilling legal career in a late-blooming effort to become a rock star. And, especially inconceivable to me on that first, magical night in 1985, at the tender age of fourteen, was the fact that, twenty-three years and two months later, I would clutch Brad for dear life, sobbing into his arms, having heard the doctor say "breast cancer" and "aggressive" and "chemotherapy." No, I didn't know any of those things on that first night. All I knew then, deep in my bones, was that I loved that boy.

Chapter 2
I sat trembling on the couch as I waited for Brad's arrival. His voice had flipped into commando mode when he'd said he was on his way. Why wasn't he here yet? I was starting to feel numb.
Call Dad, I thought. I need to call Dad.
I dialed Dad's cell phone.
"Dad," I began. I sounded pretty calm, actually. "Dad, it's . . . c—c—can . . ." I couldn't finish the word. I howled into the phone.
But Dad knew exactly what I was saying. "Oh, honey," he soothed. "I'm coming right now."
I told Dad not to come, that Brad would be home soon enough. But Dad knew his office was ten minutes closer than Brad's to my house, and he ignored me. Fifteen minutes later, I opened my front door and gratefully melted into his open arms. Later, he told me he'd had a horrible premonition a few nights earlier when I'd casually mentioned the biopsy; he'd had a feeling this was coming.
Fifteen minutes later, when Brad finally lurched through the front door and loped across the family room, scooping me up into his arms like a rag doll, I melted into his embrace. Brad.
How the hell did I get here?
Only two weeks before, a mere week before the biopsy, I'd signed a contract with a London-based record label for release of my music. At the ripe old age of thirty-seven! It was a dream come true, particularly since I'd spent the better part of the prior decade kicking someone's ass or having my ass kicked in courtrooms on a daily basis.
I hadn't mentioned The Lump or the biopsy to my new record label because I hadn't thought there was any chance I'd have a problem. Like Scarlett O'Hara—"fiddle dee dee!"—I didn't want to think about it. I had bigger fish to fry—like my imminent trip overseas to shoot a music video.
The record label had lined up a top-notch director with impressive credits: Paul McCartney! Lenny Kravitz! Annie Lennox! When John from the record label in London had talked about the "storyboard" for the video and "securing locations," I'd covered the telephone receiver with my hand to muffle my amateurish squeals of excitement.
"Act like ya been there before," Brad had coached me for years, usually after I'd spazzed out, yet again, in response to some trivial accomplishment.
But nonchalance just wasn't my strong suit.
And so, one week earlier, as we had driven to the hospital to biopsy the pea-size lump in my left breast, I hadn't been even a little bit concerned.
I'm not gonna get cancer just as my dreams are within grasp, I had thought. Real life isn't a predictable Hollywood movie.
And, anyway, bad things didn't happen to me.
Or so I had thought then.
Of course, later, I learned differently. Months later, after chemo had ravaged my hairless body, after I'd been reduced to frantically checking my fingernails each morning to see if they'd curled up and off during the night, after searing pain in my head and bones had caused me to cry out in a voice I did not recognize, I learned that, oh yes, bad things really did happen to me. But in the beginning, when scary words like "cancer" and "chemotherapy" had not yet attached themselves to my body in any tangible way, had not yet implanted their fish hooks in my flesh, I simply continued to float, uninterrupted, through the Hall of Scary Words like the Pollyanna I'd always been, those mean words bouncing off me like darts from a Nerf gun.
But Brad, unlike me, understood the gravity of the situation right from the start. During the biopsy procedure a few days before that stunning phone call from the surgeon, poor Brad sat anxiously in the waiting room for hours, all by himself, wringing his hands with worry and dread, as I drifted carelessly through the ether under general anesthesia.
According to Brad, when the surgeon finally emerged from the operating room, still dressed in green scrubs, the expression on his face made Brad's stomach drop.
"What is it?" Brad asked when the surgeon approached.
But the surgeon was noncommittal. "I don't know what that was. I've sent it to the lab for analysis."
Brad dusted off every trick in his long-abandoned lawyer bag, trying to pry a definitive answer from the surgeon. "Have you ever seen anything like it before? Was there anything about it that caused you concern? If you had to assign a percentage chance . . . "
But the doctor refused to elaborate.
And now, here we were, just a few days after that biopsy, driving to the surgeon's office in a haze of numbness, our worst fears realized, steeling ourselves to talk about my treatment options for . . . cancer? Brad drove the car, his white knuckles gripping the steering wheel as if we might veer uncontrollably off the road at any moment, while I blathered on and on in a state of shock, clinging desperately to my Teflon-coated reality.
"I'm going to be like Sheryl Crow," I proclaimed. "I'll have radiation, which will suck, but then I'll be cancer-free." And then, out of nowhere, I declared in a defiant tone, "You know I'm quitting the law, right?" I was daring him to contradict me. "I'm quitting the law," I said again for emphasis.
How could he possibly argue with me this time?
"Yes, baby," Brad said. "You just be a mommy now. You do whatever you want to do."
Even through my fog, I registered massive relief at his concession, the first of its kind after years of exhausting arguments on the topic. "I wanna quit law," I'd groaned (or whined, or yelled) through the years, to which Brad had always retorted, "Suck it up," or "We can't afford for you to quit," or "Stop being a wuss."
And now—how about that!—all it took was a little cancer diagnosis, and victory was all mine! You do whatever you want to do, he'd said!
I could finally kiss my law career goodbye!
Wow, I thought, snickering to myself, Brad is gonna be annoyed with himself for backing down when we get to the surgeon's office and he confirms I have cancer lite.
I returned to my blathering: "Radiation will suck," I continued, "but I'm going to be just fine. Just a bump in the road."
By the time Brad and I reached the surgeon's office, we had pulled ourselves together pretty well. We could handle this. I would be just like Sheryl Crow.
The surgeon informed us that it appeared we had caught the cancer early on.
See, just like Sheryl Crow.
The lump was very small, he said. So small, in fact, it was a medical marvel that I had been able to feel it at all. In a second surgery, he said, he'd remove more breast tissue and determine if the cancer had spread outside the breast and into the lymph nodes. If not, good! If yes . . . bad.
I just knew, without a doubt, there was no chance of a yes. It was simply out of the question.
"Do I need chemotherapy?" I wanted to know. This was his cue to pooh-pooh my question and tell me I was overreacting, to say I needn't worry, because, lucky for me, I had cancer lite.
But he didn't. "It's my guess you won't need chemotherapy, Laura. But you'll need to talk to an oncologist about the specifics of your treatment plan."
All I heard him say was, "You won't need chemotherapy." Whatever else he said, if anything, sounded like popcorn in a microwave. Pop, pop, pop.
When I got home from visiting the surgeon, I called my office to talk to my law partner, Pete. For the past year, I'd been working in a small firm with Pete and another lawyer, old friends of mine from law school. Both guys, fathers themselves, genuinely supported my part-time schedule, knowing it afforded me irreplaceable time with my little girls. If ever I was going to enjoy being a lawyer, then working with these two sweethearts would have been the time. But even among such wonderful law partners, I still felt like a square peg in a round hole.
Over the past year in particular, my chosen career had turned me inside out with anxiety and insomnia. My biggest client, a loud-mouthed real estate developer named Frank, had been sued for millions of dollars by multiple investors in a new office complex, who claimed that Frank and his partners had bilked them out of profits on the deal. The lawsuits were threatening to run Frank out of business and into personal bankruptcy, too. On top of that, a few weeks earlier, as I'd defended Frank in this high-stakes contract dispute, he had been criminally indicted for allegedly defrauding investors in the same deal (which he vehemently insisted was a railroad job, and I actually believed him), his high-maintenance wife of fifteen years had filed for divorce, and, just to cap off the death-spiral trifecta, audited by the IRS.
I wasn't qualified or interested in defending Frank in criminal, divorce, and tax proceedings; I was a civil litigator. So he hired an army of legal specialists to fight his battles in each of his many lawsuits, the perfect storm of which would have sent a lesser man leaping off the nearest bridge. And now Frank's army of attorneys, coordinated by me, was fighting tooth and nail to preserve any shred of his life. Frank, understandably, called me multiple times per day in a state of utter panic, wanting to know his legal team's latest efforts. Every time I looked down at my phone, there was another voicemail from Frank, usually calling to inform me of yet another catastrophic turn in his life. I didn't know how this guy had avoided a heart attack up to this point; I felt like I was going to have one on his behalf, and it wasn't even my own life that was imploding so spectacularly.
"Frank," I told him during his fifth call of that particular day, "you've gotta stop calling me so much. Every time you call, it costs you money. Just think cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching every time you dial my number. I'm your lawyer, not your best friend."
Even under these horrendous circumstances, Frank still managed to laugh. He loved it when I straight-talked him. "But you're my best friend, Laura," he responded, his voice earnest. "I don't mind having to pay to talk to you."
Oh, geez. I'd become this guy's security blanket amid the biggest shitstorm of his life. I understood his desperation, but I didn't like being a paid hand-holder. "Frank, that's gross," I said matter-of-factly. "I can't be your woobie. You're a grown-ass man."
"But, Laura, you're all I have left."
My stomach seized. Indeed, my stomach had been in a permanent state of seizure for quite some time. I didn't want to see this guy go down. I actually liked him, quirky as he was. I thought my teeth were going to fall out of my head from the stress. In fact, I'd started having stress dreams involving teeth—crumbling teeth, shattered teeth, falling-out teeth. And, even worse, my lifelong problem with night terrors—nightmares on steroids, during which the sleeper screams or even runs around with his or her eyes open—was at a fever pitch. Many nights, I shrieked in terror as I witnessed imaginary home invaders, rats crawling all over the floor, or phantom figures jumping out of paintings in my sleep. I was losing my mind . . . and nearly causing Brad nightly cardiac arrest, too.
And now, on this particular day, when my own life had been hijacked to hell, there was no question that my days of fighting anyone's battles but my own were over.
I didn't mince words. "I have cancer," I told my law partner, Pete. "I'm not coming back to work."
Pete was compassionate, as was usual for him. "Laura, take as much time as you need. Your job is here for you when you're ready."
"Thanks, Pete. But no," I responded without hesitation. "I'm never coming back." I'd be damned if I was going to give up my cancer hall pass, my one-way ticket to freedom.
The next week was a whirlwind of MRIs, blood tests, and doctor's appointments in preparation for surgery. At each appointment, Brad was by my side, holding my hand or telling the technician to use a butterfly needle to draw blood because my veins are small. Brad never left my side. Literally. Every few minutes, he reached out to touch me—my face, my hair, my arm. At night, in bed together, we clutched each other in desperation and we cried. In fact, Brad cried more in that one week than he'd cried in the twenty-three years I'd known him.
"This wasn't in the script," he whispered over and over, tears streaming down his face. "This isn't how our story goes."
It killed me to watch Brad suffer like this—though, in truth, his passionate tears made me feel loved and appreciated like never before. And, yes, with each passing day, fear was tightening its stranglehold on me, too, as reality began sinking in and those Scary Words began embedding their insidious fish hooks deep in my flesh. But mostly, though I didn't dare say it out loud to anyone, I felt one overwhelming emotion above all others: relief. I'd finally found my golden ticket to freedom. And, by God, I wasn't going to waste it.

Chapter 3
A month after I'd first met Brad on that fateful night under the stars, my fifteenth birthday was fast approaching, in October 1985, and I was becoming increasingly anxious about having lied to him about my age during the past glorious weeks of our googly-eyed infatuation.
Maybe it won't come up, I thought. Maybe he's forgotten what I said.
But about a week before my fifteenth birthday, Brad asked, "Aren't you excited to get your driver's license?"
The jig was up—unless I could somehow fake getting my driver's license. I mulled that over for a moment. That would involve an elaborate web of lies, not to mention some illegal driving on my part. No, I couldn't pull that off.
There was no way out. I had to come clean.
"I'm actually turning fifteen, not sixteen," I confessed, wincing. "I lied."
I waited for Brad to tell me that my real age, or perhaps my initial deception, was a deal breaker. But, instead, he laughed and called himself a cradle robber. "What difference does it make?" he finally said. "Laura, you're such a knucklehead."
And that was that. The boy loved me.
When prom time arrived for Brad, who was a year ahead of me in school, I shrieked at the sound of his car in the driveway. With one last mirror check—yes, my silver dress was red-carpet ready and my hair and makeup were sheer perfection—I ran to the front door to greet him with a kiss.
"You look beautiful, Buddy," Brad said, as he slipped a corsage on my wrist.
He was right. I did.
At the raging party we attended before our dinner reservation, I took great care to dab the corners of my mouth with a cloth napkin after I'd gulped down a large cup of sweet-tasting, yellow-colored punch.
"Slow down, Buddy," Brad warned. "That punch has, like, four different liquors in it."
I smiled at him. I was fine.
An hour later, as Brad and I sat with three other couples at an elegant restaurant, I struggled to keep my head upright.
Does my head weigh thirty pounds? I wondered. It kept dipping down, as if I were a drowsy truck driver, and then I'd quickly whip it back up. I couldn't follow the conversations around me; all my energy was focused on keeping my head perpendicular to the table.
Suddenly, there was a burst of laughter from the group. I swung my head up and looked around, trying to see what was so funny. But I didn't notice anything.
"What?" I asked innocently.
Brad reached over to me and picked something out of my (perfectly coiffed) hair.
"You've got lettuce in your hair."
Apparently, that last head dip had collided most indelicately with my Caesar salad.
When college came a-calling for Brad, I still had my senior year to go, and I was worried.
"What if you meet someone else in college?" I asked anxiously as we sat, hand in hand, on a low beach wall, watching the setting sun merge with the shimmering ocean.
But Brad had decided to stay in town for college, and he was confident we'd survive. "Don't worry, Buddy," he assured me. "We'll be fine."
Out of nowhere, I felt an electric current zing right through my body. I'd never felt anything like it before. It was almost . . . supernatural.
"Oh my God," I gasped. I looked at Brad. "Do you feel that?"
His face registered shock, too. "Yes. I feel it."
We continued holding hands, this strange energy coursing between us. I looked around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary for anyone else on the crowded beach. I looked at our hands. They looked completely normal.
"This is really weird," Brad whispered.
I started to cry, feeling overwhelmed with this indescribable electricity. Brad didn't ask me why I was crying. He could feel it, too.
After a few minutes, when the electric current had faded, Brad and I got up from our perch on the beach wall and made our way down the boardwalk, the whole time exchanging looks of disbelief.
There was no question from that day forward: We were meant to be together.
And yet when college came a-calling for me a year later, I could not escape the pull of my lifelong destiny to become the next Judy Garland. My destiny was bigger than me—bigger than Brad and me.
And I knew I needed to go to Hollywood, by way of the theater school at UCLA, to make it happen. And so Brad, the boy I loved so much, drove me to college to settle me into my dorm room.
It was my first giant step toward Judy-dom.


On Sale
Feb 28, 2012
Page Count
320 pages
Seal Press

Laura Roppé

About the Author

Laura Roppé is an award-winning singer-songwriter, cancer survivor, speaker, and former attorney from San Diego, California. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in theater arts from UCLA, but then pursued the “family business”—she attended law school at the University of San Diego, where she graduated number two in her class, then went on to practice employment/business litigation for over a decade.

In 2008, the year of her diagnosis with triple negative breast cancer at age thirty-seven, Roppé ditched her legal career to follow her musical dreams in earnest. She won Song of the Year at the Los Angeles Music Awards in Hollywood in 2009. Upon the release of Roppé’s second album, I’m Still Here, which Laura wrote during her chemo treatments, Billboard Magazine ranked her as third on its chart of the top fifty emerging artists in the world.

Roppé spends her time hanging out with her husband, two daughters, and dog, Buster, writing and singing, playing Bunco on the second Tuesday of each month with her girlfriends, and—last but not least—devising various schemes to get herself into the Copa Cabana.

Learn more about this author