At age 28, Shawna Gomez was diagnosed with breast cancer. She still visits Renown’s Infusion Services every three weeks for follow-up treatment. Through it all, her care team has been at her side, forming a bond that has benefited both patient and caregiver. In honor of National Cancer Survivor’s Day, this is their story.
Sometimes seeing a friendly face can make all the difference in a person’s life. And for Shawna Gomez, seeing three friendly faces on a regular basis for the last 10 years has proved that to be true.
“Throughout my 10 years of coming to Infusion Services, three nurses — Daun Russell, Rosa Cortez and Cindy Peak — have worked here the entire time,” Gomez says. “They know everything that has gone on in my life.”
Gomez found a lump in her breast 10 years ago when she was 28 years old. Originally, doctors told her she was too young to worry about anything, but a biopsy revealed she had stage four breast cancer. Within a week of her diagnosis, she found out the cancer had spread to a spot on her vertebrae, bones and ribs. She underwent a mastectomy and then chemotherapy at Renown Infusion Services.
“At first I wanted to believe the doctors that it was nothing,” Gomez ;explains. “But it was kind of a shock and it was hard. At the time, my husband and I just started trying to have kids. I read a lot at first but a lot of that was really negative. But 10 years later, I’m good and I don’t let it affect me anymore.”
Throughout her decade of treatment, Gomez has continued to work full time as the bar manager at Flowing Tide Pub in south Reno. After completing chemotherapy, Gomez continued treatment — an infusion called Herceptin that prevents the cancer that spread to her bones from spreading further — and will do so every three weeks for the rest of her life.
Gomez says the nurses, especially Russell, Cortez and Peak, have been a valuable part of her journey.
“They were super helpful when I started everything 10 years ago,” Gomez says. “They know now that I come in every three weeks. They always do little birthday or Christmas things for their patients.”
Peak said Gomez has maintained a positive attitude since her diagnosis.
“She always has a smile, always happy and never complains,” Peak says. “I remember Shawna’s first visits – she would say, ‘I think they’ve got the wrong girl!’ It goes to show us all her amazing attitude.”
Nurses Have Close Tie With Patient
Gomez has had as much of an impact on her nurses as her nurses have had on her.
“Shawna is a reminder of how even when the battle is still out there, you can live life and not just exist,” says Russell, the lead nurse for Infusion Services. “She is a gift, a blessing to me – to all of us – a remarkable young woman who is such an inspiration for our team. She works full time and has an active home life. I tell everyone who joins us how she is a walking miracle and a reminder to us in healthcare how new developments in medications have changed the way we treat that type of cancer.”
Russell says seeing Gomez puts a smile on the nursing staff’s faces and gives the nurses in Infusion Services an opportunity to show some of the newer nurses the progresses and successes in cancer care.
Some of Russell’s favorite memories are when patients come back to Infusion Services to show her how they are doing and thriving and living.
“For some, like Shawna, this is her ‘new normal,’” Russell says. “I have been to weddings and a previous patient brought their first baby to my wedding. I am blessed to have been a small part of my patients’ lives.
“I always say, this is a hard road our patients are on and we take our joy where we can find it,” she adds. “For me, Shawna is a joy.”