Survivor Celebrates Guardian Angels at Edith Sanford Breast Center

Last year, Trudy Papka of Brandon, S.D., was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I had a feeling of complete and utter numbness,” she remembers. “I had little reaction to anything I was told, so my husband asked questions while I sat looking at the walls and the floor.”

From that day forward, the personal kindness and expertise of her nurse navigator, Gloria Top, and surgeon, Dr. Jesse Dirksen, at the Edith Sanford Breast Center helped carry her through the journey to survivorship.

Papka recently made a Guardian Angel gift to honor Top and Dr. Dirksen. Accompanying her donation were personal letters giving thanks to each of these special people:

Dr. Dirksen talking to Trudy

For Dr. Dirksen:

His genuine thoughtfulness to me and my husband during my breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery are appreciated more than he knows. He impressed me with not only his kindness but also his straightforward approach to what I needed to think about, what decisions I needed to make and what I could expect throughout this journey.

I remember the day he told me I had breast cancer, specifically, I had a feeling of complete and utter numbness … unable to think of even one question to ask. I had little reaction to anything I was told, so my husband asked questions while I sat looking at the walls and the floor.

A day or two after that appointment, Dr. Dirksen personally phoned me at home to explain that he had met with his medical team to review my diagnosis … this truly meant a lot to me.

The day of my surgery was May 24 and shortly before I was to go into surgery, Dr. Dirksen stopped in to talk with me and my husband. He asked if we would like to pray with him. I said “yes” and for the first moment since my diagnosis, I could feel the tears coming. I’m not what most would consider a religious person, but to hear him pray for guidance and a positive outcome meant the world to me.

For Gloria:

Gloria was the oncology nurse navigator assisting Dr. Dirksen the day my husband and I received my breast cancer diagnosis. After the appointment with the doctor, Gloria remained in the room with us and reviewed handwritten notes she’d take as Dr. Dirksen explained the options and my next steps. If she had not been taking notes, neither my husband nor I would have remembered everything we’d just been told.

Before we left, Gloria handed me her business card and invited me to call her with any questions. It didn’t take long for me to put together a lengthy list. Ultimately, I made many phone calls to her through the weeks leading up to and after my surgery.

If there is one thing that sets Gloria apart from others in her position, it might be the fact that she herself has experienced breast cancer. In other words, she knew exactly what I was going through and could anticipate my questions before I even asked.

Gloria Top receiving a Guardian Angel pin and certificate

Who is your Guardian Angel?

Did Papka’s letters remind you of a doctor, nurse or another employee at Sanford Health who went above and beyond for you or a loved one?

Visit sanfordhealthfoundation/guardianangel to make a gift of gratitude in his or her honor and share a few words of thanks. Your Guardian Angel will be celebrated at a special recognition ceremony, and 100% of your gift will enhance services for future patients.

Celebrate your Guardian Angel today!