By Mercy's Courtney Landsberger
This holiday season, Susan Abrahamsen says she is especially grateful. In addition to having a loving family and a successful 30-year career in health care, Abrahamsen is a breast cancer survivor.
“It was surreal,” said Abrahamsen of her diagnosis. “All of a sudden, everything changes.”
Abrahamsen learned she had stage two breast cancer in February. By March, she began weekly rounds of chemotherapy.
“In the beginning, it was easy to keep my illness hidden from my patients,” said Abrahamsen. “I just poured myself into my work, but as I started losing more hair, my patients could tell something was going on.”
For nearly the last two years, Abrahamsen has worked as an advanced practice registered nurse and certified nurse practitioner in the telemedicine program at Mercy Hospital El Reno. She takes care of patients in the hospital, while helping to relay important information about her patients to physicians in Oklahoma City using a television screen with two-way audio and video technology. She often works with Dr. Daniel Pascucci.
“I just remember her being very shaken when she told me she had been diagnosed with cancer,” said Dr. Pascucci. Despite the diagnosis, he said it was hard to keep her away from work. “Her first priority has always been our patients, and even as she was going through a health scare of her own, she did whatever she could to continue taking care of them.”
Dr. Pascucci said Abrahamsen’s outlook on her illness and recovery is now inspiring his own practice in medicine.
“It is humbling to be able to see somebody live out the Mercy mission of bringing to life the healing ministry of Jesus in such a selfless way,” he said. “To see her faith in the Lord guide her through that and give her peace while she continued to care for patients has been very eye-opening.”
Following surgery and now daily radiation treatments, Abrahamsen hasn’t been able to work since September, but she still believes that she has been “very blessed” throughout this journey.
“It is a different feeling being on the other side of care, but it’s helped me connect on a much deeper level with my patients, and I understand better what they are feeling,” she said. “When my patient’s started realizing my diagnosis, they would often offer support and encouragement, even when I was the one taking care of them. There are good people in El Reno.”
Abrahamsen will finish her final round of radiation two days after Christmas. She plans to return to work at Mercy Hospital El Reno by New Year’s Day.