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Stronger than ever: Thief River Falls woman overcomes cancer diagnosis

November 28, 2017

Leading up to Jill LaBine’s 50th birthday, life couldn’t get any sweeter.

Her first grandchild was on the way. And if she wasn’t gardening or antique shopping, she was with her second family at Sanford Thief River Falls where she has worked as a registered nurse for more than 25 years.

“Some people hate the thought of turning 50, but I was looking forward to it,” LaBine said (pictured above with Linda Schultz, Brooke Hoefer and Amy Petrovich, nurses at the Infusion Center). “I was going to be a grandma, and then this hit.”

Back spasms LaBine often blamed on her physically demanding job were becoming more of problem. Then one day at home while doing laundry, she tripped on some clothes lying on the floor.

“I bounced off the wall and the pain was excruciating,” she recalled. “I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life.”

LaBine finally realized there might be something more seriously wrong than just an achy back. And she was right.

An MRI revealed three compression fractures — indicating an unusual level of weakened bone mass for a 50-year-old. Doctor’s pursued more testing until they discovered the true source of LaBine’s pain: cancer cells in her bone marrow. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

“I was a very healthy person up until then,” LaBine said. “I went to the doctor for my routine checks every year. I wasn’t on any medication. I never had any surgery in my life. To go from that to this diagnosis took a long time to set in.”

During this time of uncertainty, LaBine leaned on her faith, her immediate family and especially her Sanford family for support.

“I’ve been so blessed because I’ve got my family, I’ve got my coworkers and my Sanford family around me,” she said.

The network of Sanford specialists developed a treatment plan specifically for LaBine. It included oral medication and chemotherapy in the form of a shot, administered conveniently at the Sanford Thief River Falls infusion center down the hall from her workstation.

“Being so close played a big part in me being able to get the rest that I needed,” she said.

And it brought her peace of mind to be cared for by nurses she knew so well.

“When I would go there, I didn’t feel like I was in this deep dark hole because I would see them,” LaBine said. “Even with my diagnosis and not knowing what’s going to happen in my life, they brought hope to me.”

After the treatments and a successful stem cell transplant, she celebrated remission for nearly a year.

“I got back to work full time in Thief River and everything was going wonderfully,” she said. “My back was feeling great and I felt like I was back to normal.”

But during a routine exam, her doctor found a soft lump in her breast, which turned out to be an aggressive type of breast cancer. Fortunately, it was caught early, in stage 1.

LaBine’s fight continued this year with chemotherapy, mastectomy and radiation. Although she is disheartened and frustrated to battle a second cancer diagnosis, she knows she’s in good hands at Sanford Thief River Falls. She’s as close as ever with the Sanford Infusion Center nurses.

“My Sanford family is right there with me, encouraging me all the way,” she said.

LaBine knows now more than ever how important it is to have services and facilities, like the Sanford Infusion Center, available close to home.

“Hopefully cancer will never affect a person in their lifetime, but if it does, having this facility here is invaluable,” she said.

Please consider a gift today to support the Sanford Infusion Center in Thief River Falls through the new Building Exceptional Health Care campaign. As we look to the next decade and beyond, this campaign will support the future of health and wellness here to help meet rising health care needs.

Submit the enclosed envelope or visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org to make a gift!