Healing Close to Home

Carol Schumacher

I first met Betsy Loop, RN, in May 2015. I had received my diagnosis of breast cancer in February at the medical center where we both work, in International Falls, Minnesota; had my surgery in March at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota; and started on four months of doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide and paclitaxel after learning that I had triple-negative breast cancer. Betsy gave me my first injection of Neulasta (pegfilgrastim), a shot in the stomach that she made a fun experience somehow and that I learned to look forward to because I would be seeing her.

After that, I saw a lot of Betsy. She is the oncology nurse for Rainy Lake Medical Center. We are a community of around 5,000 in population on the Canadian border. We are 100 miles away from the nearest large medical facility, which makes treatment difficult and time-consuming — you have to travel 100 to 350 miles one way to get to your doctor or clinic. That is where Betsy comes in! She has been administering chemotherapy for 20 years here and doing it with love, compassion and a very positive attitude. When you go to chemo and Betsy is there, it is hard to be negative about the experience. She is a dedicated cancer fighter and lets you know she has your back, whether it’s giving you your infusion; raising money for gas cards for when you do have to go out of town; or participating in Rock for a Cure, the Walk for a Cure or any other fundraiser we host in town.

Betsy has an enthusiasm for life that makes you want to fight, to face your fears and go through your treatment with courage. Her courage is contagious, and even when her husband was fighting his battle with cancer, Betsy never gave in to hopelessness or despair. She would joke about what a terrible patient he was and make us all laugh. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her to be with patients with cancer all day and then have to go home and face the same disease there, yet she stayed positive and upbeat through it all. Thankfully, he has survived, no doubt due to the good nursing he received!

From left: Betsy Loop, RN, and Carol Schumacher. Photos by Jaclyn Briggs.

The number of people in town for whom Betsy has been a lifeline throughout the years is probably in the thousands. The motto of our institution is “Care, Here” — in town, without the need to drive miles away from home and family and friends and having the expense of staying in a motel, in addition to caregivers missing work and other commitments. So, you see it is a pretty important job, and Betsy has handled it with grace and humor, giving the best of her heart and the best of her mind. She goes above and beyond her job description, once even coming to the CT scan machine to give me my contrast injection because the technician was having trouble finding a vein. My cancer journey would have been very different without the care I received from Betsy, and I know from other cancer survivors that their journeys were also lightened by her wit and compassion. All the doctors, nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners would say the same thing about her: that her care and dedication to our medical center and to her patients has been an example of selflessness that is not found often. She has made a huge difference to those of us who have had to travel the cancer road — or join the cancer rodeo, as my daughter-in-law refers to it.

And so, I wholeheartedly recommend Betsy Loop for the 2019 CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Award because that is a perfect description of her: extraordinary and a healer of the body, of the mind and, most important, of the spirit. She deserves to be recognized as a very special person and nurse — and one I have been blessed to know.
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