From Caretaker to Patient

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Margaret “Peggy” Long has been working in oncology for more than 22 years, and has been at Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee for almost seven. But on April 3, 2012, this cancer nurse navigator became a cancer patient.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Peggy says. “But having worked with so many people that have gone through this, it really took the fear out of it.”

Peggy’s diagnosis came as the result of an annual digital screening mammogram at Columbia St. Mary’s Van Dyke Haebler Center. Having dedicated her life to cancer treatment, she knew as well as anyone the importance of yearly check-ups and early detection. Because of that, her cancer was caught early.

“It was so small on the screening,” Peggy says. “I hope someday I get to meet the guy who read the screening mammogram because it was really small.”

On May 10, Peggy underwent a double mastectomy, followed a month later by a 5-week course of radiation. Throughout most of her treatment Peggy continued to work, pulling inspiration from the courage of her patients.

As a nurse navigator, Peggy accompanies patients from diagnosis through survivorship. Basically, whatever a patient needs – from education to counseling – Peggy is there for them. But during her treatment, Peggy’s patients helped her just as much as she helped them.

On October 16, Peggy was deemed cancer-free. And while no one would ever wish for a cancer diagnosis, she is confident her successful battle ultimately made her a better nurse navigator. Though she was always an advocate for Columbia St. Mary’s, she now possesses unique, first-hand experience.

“I can truly recommend and stand behind the care we provide,” Peggy says. “It’s top notch.”

It’s also helped her relate to her patients, who look at her as a symbol of life after cancer. She is a representation of the other side, of hope, of survivorship.

“You don’t have to walk down the hallway in a gown to be a good navigator, but it definitely has added to my training and my ability to work with women,” Peggy says. “There is another side to cancer care that I do understand now.”

 

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