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Walking The Journey Together

May 14, 2009, 6:12 PM by Kelli Grant

Walking The Journey Together
The diagnosis comes with shock, disbelief and often feelings no one else can understand. The word cancer can change a person's life in an instant.  But women battling breast cancer don't have to walk the journey alone.

A cancer diagnosis may leave you needing someone to lean on, someone to tell you what happens next.  A nurse care coordinator can do just that, especially if they've been diagnosed with cancer themselves.

When doctors diagnosed Cindy Shuck with breast cancer, she had a million questions and just as many emotions followed.  But through the fight against this disease, she's met Sanford nurse care coordinator Gloria Top, a woman who really understood what she was going through.

“There were some dark days in there, especially the part when I was losing my hair,” Top said.

Top taught her daughters their identity was about more than how they looked.  But then she had to live it.  Diagnosed with breast cancer nearly four years ago, she then decided to help other women.

“It is so important to meet somebody right at their crisis point,” Top said.

As a nurse care coordinator, she meets with women from the time of their diagnosis to the end of treatment.

“We're nurses without walls so to speak. So when they meet the surgeon, we're there. When they need a breast MRI, we're there. When they have surgery, we're there,” nurse care coordinator Donna Smithback said.

It was the support Shuck needed as she told her family, had surgery and began the fight.

“People can come up and say, ‘You know, I understand what you're going through. You know get some chocolate, go have a bubble bath.’ But somebody who's really gone through that process can understand that while those things help, just to have someone to talk to really makes a difference,” Shuck said. 

Top tells women not to compare experiences because no breast cancer diagnosis is alike. But her words of encouragement will never change.

“We don't get to choose what we're dealt with in life, but we do our response. And we can either respond by being angry, resentful, and bitter, and that's ok to be like that for a while, but we don't want to get stuck there,” Top said.

Nurse Care Coordinator

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