Work Family Makes a World of Difference for Breast Cancer Survivor
Nicole Stauder has worked as a physical therapist at Taylorville Memorial Hospital (TMH) for the past 22 years. Her work family didn’t miss a beat when she was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram in 2016.
“They let me be me,” said Nicole, now 46. “They treated me like normal, which I needed. I wanted to come to work every day and help patients. I had a job to do. But I was in and out for chemotherapy and later surgeries, and they were so supportive with notes, calls, cards, allowing me to switch my schedule. Not everyone has that. I could not have done it without them.”
Nicole was inspired by her friend Mindy Pearse, a breast cancer survivor who also works as a nurse navigator at MMC. Nicole remembers when Mindy was diagnosed, how brave she was to go out in public without her wig, how she became a passionate advocate for mammograms and how she battled all while mothering her young children.
When Nicole was diagnosed, her daughter Kayla was a busy junior in high school, daughter Kristen was in eighth grade and son Mason was in fifth grade. All were active in sports and other school activities. Nicole and her husband Scott explained to the kids that she had breast cancer but she was not sick.
She tackled her treatments with a singular determination, but there were hard days. On one of those days, her doctor, William Putnam, an OB/GYN with Springfield Clinic, offered important encouragement.
“He said ‘Everything’s going to be OK. You can do this. You need to hold your head up; you need to get active. This is like a chronic disease. You are going to figure it out, and you are going to learn to live with this,’” she remembered. “So I went home, got back on my bicycle and started riding and exercising. The harder I made my heart pump, the more the chemo would be pushed out to where it needed to go.”
A year ago, Nicole shared her story at the Pink-Out football game at Nokomis High School. The community through the Montgomery County Cancer Association has raised funds for cancer patients and survivors to help offset costs. She is passionate about encouraging others who are on the same journey.
“What we forget as healthcare professionals is that most people aren’t familiar with that realm,” she said. “They may be much more private, scared or intimidated. I just try to be as open and honest with my experience as I can because others did that for me, and it helped me get through.”
For more information on mammography, visit LiveWellMagazine.org/annual-mammograms-important-even-without-family-history-cancer/.