Nurses Week: A chance to say thank you

April 18, 2018

Pictured above (right to left): Andrea Parada, patient access representative; Fred Fridley, Foundation executive director; Sherri Forsch, registered nurse; Beth McNeilly, registered nurse; Sandy Steckler, breast cancer survivor; Michelle Hinrichs, nurse navigator; Candace Kessel, registered nurse; and Vonda Dinger, pharmacist. Not pictured: Teresa Kuntz, patient access representative; Danika Brost, patient access representative; Lisa Stevens, patient access representative; Bev Bleth, patient access representative; and Tamala Anderson, certified nurse practitioner.

Sitting in the Sanford Dickinson West Infusion Center, Sandy Steckler found herself smiling. She was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but seeing how the small team of nurses and other staff members interacted with patients gave her great joy.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Sandy said. “I saw them take the time to get to know the people and listen to their stories. They had a special way of working with all the different people.”

Sandy’s familiarity with the infusion center began before her own diagnosis. The first time she walked through the door, it was with her husband, Duane, who was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer in March 2016.

The Stecklers knew they’d have an uphill fight with Duane’s cancer, which had a high risk of spreading to the brain. Duane lost his battle in January 2017, less than a year after he began treatment.

Just a few months after Duane started his treatment, Sandy found a lump in her left breast. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2016.

Sandy remembered Duane, who could find humor in almost any situation, joking, “We have his and her cancer.”

Duane and Sandy started rotating appointments, both undergoing chemotherapy at the infusion center in Dickinson, about 80 miles from their home in Bowman, N.D. The drive felt short, Sandy said, compared with the alternative: a 200-mile trek to Bismarck.

During that time, the infusion center staff was a huge comfort to both Sandy and Duane. They came to know the team like family. Everyone they encountered, Sandy said, made them feel at ease, including their incredible nurses: Sherri Forsch, Beth McNeily and Candace Kessel.

“It is so comforting to go to your appointment and have such kind and caring people taking care of you,” Sandy said.

In typical fashion, Duane joked about his “beach body,” as the nurses set up his infusion. He always made the staff laugh, and in turn, Sandy could tell Duane enjoyed their company during his treatment.

“They made a bad situation the best it could be,” Sandy said. “Duane always got a kick out of seeing everyone there, and I’m so grateful for that.”

The Thanksgiving after they were diagnosed, Duane and Sandy counted the infusion center among their blessings. They made a Guardian Angel gift to the Sanford Health Foundation in honor of the infusion center staff.

Despite the devastating loss of her husband last year, Sandy continues to be grateful for the compassionate care they both received.

Recently, Sandy’s scans showed she was cancer-free. She again showed her gratitude with a Guardian Angel gift in honor of the infusion team.

“My hope is that more people give and help keep this service going for our region,” Sandy said. “I hope others can have the same experience we had for many years to come.”

Recognize your Guardian Angel today!