Giving and Getting Support
Linda Fiske, RN, MSN, a breast cancer survivor, has volunteered for the Leaves of Hope event every year (except for this year) in her position at the Cancer Centers of Colorado at Lutheran prior to her retirement in 2014. Fiske began her career at the cancer center in 1993, and has helped organize Lutheran’s Cancer Survivors Day each year.
Cancer had affected several of her family members, including her son, Jason, who had died as a teen in 1990, so Fiske found her niche in working with cancer patients and their families. Her empathy and understanding of what they were experiencing helped dozens of people over the years. She also supported much of the growth of the program, adding staff, clinical trials, a genetic counselor, patient navigators and a boutique that sells items needed by those going through cancer treatment.
In 2007, Fiske was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. Thanks to regular screenings and a bit of luck, the cancer was caught very early and successfully treated through a lumpectomy, radiation and a course of Tamoxifen.
“At first, I didn’t want my patients to know that I had cancer too,” Fiske says. “I didn’t want my story to interfere with theirs. There were some who I thought might benefit from my experience, and I shared it with them.”
Her experience in supporting others through a cancer diagnosis and treatment made it a bit tougher to accept help when she needed it. “I was used to being the one giving help, and it was hard to have the tables turned. I had to learn that it was OK to receive love and care from others when I needed it too. My co-workers, family and friends were just amazing—they were right beside me every day.
“I appreciated the support along with the wonderful care I got at Lutheran. And, I found a lot of what I had been preaching for many years to be true for me too,” Fiske added. “Dealing with cancer makes you prioritize your life a little differently, and appreciate life a little differently.”