When Cheryl Halverson was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was shocked and scared.
Fortunately, she had Peggy Long, her Nurse Navigator, by her side every step of the way, at every appointment. Cheryl says she wouldn’t have been able to get through her cancer treatment without Peggy’s endless support and encouragement.
“When you get diagnosed with cancer, you face some really dark days,” Cheryl says. “You never think you have to face your mortality at 42 years old. You can imagine what ran through my head at the time.”
Cheryl discovered the lump in early October 2012 while performing a routine self-checkup. Initially, she didn’t think much of it. She had always been healthy – she was only 42-years-old, had spent most of her life running marathons, triathlons and working out, and had no family history of cancer. In fact, the initial biopsy came back negative.
“I really thought I was the picture of health,” she says, “so I was pretty shocked by the diagnosis.”
With a background in market research, Cheryl put her analytical mind to work right away. She talked to friends who had successfully battled breast cancer. She scoured the Internet. She sought out second and third opinions. She learned as much as she could so she was confident she was making the right decisions.
“I went to Froedtert and then I traveled out to Sloan-Kettering in New York,” she says. “I felt that as a 42-year-old with two young kids, especially my little girl, I needed to do all I could to fight this battle and beat it so that it would never come back.”
When the additional opinions came back with the same diagnosis and treatment plan as Columbia St. Mary’s, Cheryl’s decision ultimately came down to relationships and comfort.
“I had great faith in Dr. Lal and Dr. Nand, but also Peggy Long, the Nurse Navigator,” she says. “They didn't just treat me medically, but they supported me from an emotional standpoint as well, whereas if I went to a different hospital, I'd just be a number. I felt really at home and at peace.”
Peggy, especially, helped foster that warm and caring environment. She was by Cheryl’s side during the entire process, explaining her diagnosis and treatment plan, answering any and all questions, scheduling all of her appointments and lending emotional support.
“At first I thought, okay, Peggy is going to be there to navigate my appointments. But then it became, okay, Peggy is going to answer my questions. And then Peggy is going to support me emotionally,” Cheryl says. “And every time I was here, somehow Peggy showed up by my side, held my hand, cheered me on, and reassured me. So she became a really integral part of the overall treatment program. I don't think I could have gotten through it without her.”
Just 11 days after her diagnosis, Cheryl had a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy, which showed that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She underwent four rounds of chemo followed by 33 rounds of radiation.
Today, Cheryl is happy and healthy and enjoying life like never before.
“I took away really great life lessons. In a way, I feel richer as a person,” she says. “I’m just grateful and I cherish each day. I know that sounds cliché, but emotionally when you've been through what I've been through, you just are so grateful and so appreciative of each day and all the small, little moments that you have.”