Cancer survivor shares gratitude for care

DICKINSON, N.D. — Sitting in the Sanford Dickinson West Infusion Center, Sandy Steckler found herself smiling. She was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but seeing how the small team of nurses and other staff members interacted with patients gave her great joy.

“It’s hard to put into words,” she said. “I saw them take the time to get to know the people and listen to their stories. They had a special way of working with all the different people.”

Her familiarity with the infusion center began before her own diagnosis. The first time she walked through the door, it was with her husband, Duane Steckler, who was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer in March 2016.

The Stecklers knew they’d have an uphill fight with his cancer, which had a high risk of spreading to the brain, and Duane ultimately lost his battle in January 2017, less than a year after he began treatment.

‘His and her cancer’

Just a few months after Duane started his treatment, Sandy found a lump in her left breast and was diagnosed with cancer in July 2016.

“We have his and her cancer,” Duane joked at the time, true to his ability to find humor in almost any situation.

The couple started rotating appointments, both undergoing chemotherapy at the infusion center in Dickinson, about 80 miles from their home in Bowman, North Dakota. The drive felt short, Sandy Steckler said, compared with the alternative: a 200-mile trek to Bismarck, North Dakota.

During that time, the infusion center staff was a huge comfort to both Sandy and Duane. They came to know the team like family. Everyone they encountered made them feel at ease, including nurses Sherri Forsch, Beth McNeily and Candace Kessel.

“It is so comforting to go to your appointment and have such kind and caring people taking care of you,” Sandy said.

Bad situation better

In typical fashion, Duane joked about his “beach body” as the nurses set up his infusion. He always made the staff laugh and, in turn, Sandy could tell Duane enjoyed their company during his treatment.

“They made a bad situation the best it could be,” Sandy said. “Duane always got a kick out of seeing everyone there, and I’m so grateful for that.”

The Thanksgiving after they were diagnosed, Duane and Sandy counted the infusion center among their blessings. They made a Guardian Angel gift to the Sanford Health Foundation in honor of the infusion center staff.

Despite the devastating loss of her husband last year, Sandy continues to be grateful for the compassionate care they both received.

Recently, her scans showed she was cancer-free and again showed her gratitude with a Guardian Angel gift in honor of the infusion team.

“My hope is that more people give and help keep this service going for our region,” Sandy said. “I hope others can have the same experience we had for many years to come.”

National Nurses Week

National Nurses Week is May 6-12. Sanford Health patients interested in honoring a caregiver as a Guardian Angel with a gift to the Sanford Health Foundation receive a personalized card and Guardian Angel pin to show how much his or her work means to people.

Posted In Cancer, Dickinson, Foundation