Home health therapist beats cancer with treatment, prayer

Caregiver became two-time patient, helping others along the way

Good Samaritan Society staff member in a face mask listens intently to a client who is blurry and facing away from the camera.

On the road to recovery, it helps to have people steering you in the right direction.

“I’ve always loved working with people,” Sharon Hermeling, a Good Samaritan Society physical therapist, says.

Hermeling is passionate about turning her patients’ lives around.

“I love home health,” Hermeling says. “I don’t ever want to do anything else.”

The 63-year-old visits clients in their homes for Good Samaritan Society – Home Health of the Black Hills.

“I love that I can go into a patient’s home, work one-on-one with them, and see them in their own environment,” Hermeling says.

‘Couldn’t ask for anything better’

Her first house call on this day is Beth Olsen in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Olsen recently skipped the elevator at her apartment building and ended up falling down some stairs.

“And I really did a number on myself,” Olsen says. “It would take me 10-15 minutes just to get out of bed.”

Religious about listening to Hermeling and her team’s advice, the 92-year-old is returning to form quickly.

“It’s just simple little things that you just do on a regular basis. That’s all,” Olsen says.

Personalized care in the comfort of her own home shaped by Hermeling and the Society.

Olsen credits Hermeling for being “uplifting and encouraging and stuff like that. Couldn’t ask for anything better.”

‘One of the most positive people’

Hermeling’s co-workers share the same belief.

“She’s just one of the most positive people I’ve ever met,” Sarah Angelo, Society administrator, says. “She comes to work, cares about her patients, focuses in on them more than anything going on with herself personally.”

Personally, she’s faced several serious health battles including her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2015.

“I came out totally cancer free and I have to tell you though, I don’t know if I could have made it through without prayers from everybody. It was awesome,” Hermeling says.

Angelo adds, “She’s been through chemo. She’s been through radiation. She’s been through hair loss and things like that. I can’t ever remember a time where she’s been off a significant amount of time.”

Hermeling just keeps showing up.

“It was a God thing. It was,” Hermeling says. “He gave me the energy and will to do it and everybody supported me. Lost my hair. Wore these fancy little hats. Tried a wig, didn’t like that.”

Cancer trials inspire compassion

A year and a half later, her breast cancer was back but in a different spot.

“It was not a spot (doctors) could operate. They couldn’t do radiation,” Hermeling says. “They did chemo but they honestly did not think it was going to work.”

Through all kinds of emotions, renewed prayers for Hermeling’s health were answered with a miracle. The chemo worked.

“So I am now cancer free. I wasn’t supposed to be. I’m sorry,” Hermeling says as she wipes tears from her eyes. “It’s amazing. I do think that has made me even that much more compassionate with patients. I can understand where they’re coming from that much more.”

It guides her calling to bring healing to those in need.

“We were called to help people. That’s our job. We can look at them as a person and not a number,” Hermeling says. “You think you have it bad? No. Work with some of these patients who are going through something so much worse. So many of them are handling it just beautifully. I love these patients.”

You can tell by her positivity and efforts each day.

“These people are amazing,” Hermeling says. “Most of my positive attitude comes from the Lord. I can’t imagine getting through day-to-day without that.”

Her clients can’t imagine recovery without her.

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Posted In Cancer, Sanford Stories, Senior Services, Virtual Care