by Ashleigh Eisbrener
When you ask ABC 7 Chicago’s Roz Varon about many aspects of her life, she’ll tell you she’s both “blessed” and “lucky.” Her hard work and dedication led her to become the first TV traffic anchor in the country to bring rush hour traffic reporting to the news, and today she updates Chicagoans on traffic snarls and travel times and covers transportation beats. She has received many awards and honors for her work, including multiple Emmy awards, and was most recently presented with an Illinois Broadcasters Association Silver Dome Award for her breast cancer special, “Faces of Inspiration.” Aside from being a breast cancer survivor herself, Roz is also a dedicated wife and loving mother who devotes much of her time outside of the office to advocating for causes and non-profit organizations that are close to her heart.
Roz grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and was very involved with theatre. Enamored with performing, she went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications from Columbia College. She broke into the field as a radio DJ, and shortly after became a traffic reporter at a Chicago traffic service. She learned how to report on traffic and worked in radio for the next nine years. In 1988 she got wind of a traffic reporting position becoming available at ABC 7 Chicago in the spring of 1989 for a new morning newscast, and Roz jumped at the opportunity to bring her radio career to television. “It was a very exciting prospect, particularly since nobody had done traffic reporting on a morning TV newscast before,” she says. Roz got the job, which she believes was a combination of “talent, chutzpah, determination and luck.”
As ABC 7 Chicago’s morning traffic anchor for over 20 years, Roz is used to a busy lifestyle. Each weekday, she wakes up at 2am, is in the makeup chair at 3:20am and is on the air between 4:30am and 9am. She either works at her desk on traffic segments and other stories or is out on a shoot until around noon. When she can, she enjoys contributing her Emmy Award-winning “One Tank Trips” to the morning newscast, featuring regional travel destinations, and posting to “Roz on the Road,” her must-read blog covering a wide range of topics from construction to life challenges. She also hosts “Weekender,” an entertainment round-up each Friday on the ABC 7 Chicago News at 4pm. When Roz isn’t working, the rest of her schedule is devoted to her family, charitable work and her health.
Roz is a breast cancer survivor who works diligently to help heighten cancer prevention and awareness. In 2006, she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, meaning the cancer had already spread to other areas of her body. “This came as quite a shock, to have the initial diagnosis so advanced, because I was very diligent in self-exams and having annual mammograms,” she says. “When confronted with a life-threatening illness, especially since my daughter was only 10 at the time, you go into fight mode.” Roz found an oncologist who she believed was the best in the field for her particular type of breast cancer and got a treatment plan in action. “Again, I use the words ‘lucky’ and ‘blessed’ because my body responded so well to the treatment—within six months, all of my tumors were gone!” she says.
Today, Roz works diligently to keep her cancer in remission. She continues to receive treatment every three weeks via an intravenous drug that acts as target therapy to prevent the cancer cells from redeveloping, yet leaving the healthy cells alone; receives Computed Tomography (CT) scans every four months to make sure the cancer has not returned; and tries her best to keep a healthy lifestyle. As part of the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at the hospital where she receives ongoing treatment, she takes part in regular Pilates and yoga sessions, acupuncture treatment and massage therapy. “Treating the mind, body and spirit are my ongoing defense against cancer,” she says.
In hopes for someday finding a cure, Roz is very active with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and is involved with ABC 7 Chicago’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk with ACS. She also works with Back in the Swing (BITS), a non-profit based out of Kansas that helps breast cancer survivors get “back in the swing” of everyday life after a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Aside from cancer charities, she’s involved with the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana and is a supporter of the Anti-Cruelty Society and PAWS Chicago. Although her volunteer work and career bring her great joy, she says her biggest accomplishment and the most fulfilling job is being a mom to her 16-year-old daughter. “I couldn’t be more proud of the young adult she is becoming,” Roz says. “My other accomplishments pale in comparison!”
As Roz’s daughter is reaching the age, where she’s considering possible career choice, Roz encourages her, and others, to do what she did—follow your dreams. “But you have to have a plan and a back-up plan just in case,” she says. She adds that “In today’s world, it’s even more challenging to follow a path, but I still believe with hard work and persistence it can be done.” Above all, she encourages everyone to believe in themselves.