A Christmas Angel for Those of Us With Cancer

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 9, Volume 9, Issue 1

An essay from our Extraordinary Healers book honoring Sharon Bernico, RN, OCN [Oncology Therapy Center in Morris, Illinois].

Ben Holman with Sharon Bernico, RN, OCN - PHOTO BY OTTO RASCON

I LIVE IN DIAMOND, ILLINOIS, with my wife Rinnea and our three beautiful companions, Golden Mollie, Pity Bull Sweetie, and Tom-Cat Striper. I am a cancer survivor, and here is my story.

While watching a football game on television, my eyes blurred up a little. I moved the chair closer to the television to see better, hoping my wife would get the hint and tell Santa to bring me a big screen TV next holiday season. My wife instead blitzed me off to an eye surgeon. Blood tests were taken along with eye exams. The eye doctor’s prognosis was that I needed new lenses. After removing cataracts, I was told the blood tests were abnormal; there were elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and Gleason score levels. Off we went to the urologist. Urine tests came back showing that I had prostate cancer. My PSA (78.6) test and Gleason score (8) were very high.

We were sent to the Oncology Therapy Center in Morris, Illinois (West Campus). We were to confer with Dr. Soni and Nurse Sharon Bernico. After the consultation, it was determined that treatments should proceed. I went back to the urologist to receive gold markers and prepare for treatment. Forty-two sessions of external radiation would be the weapon to fight my cancer. Dr. Soni and Sharon were confident that the procedure would get the job done.

My journey began in April 2011. The team was set in place at the Morris Hospital Radiation Center. Sharon and her team, Cassandra Worley, Beth Knoblock, Sherah Rodriquez and Rachel Milton, were ready for me.

Along with Dr. Soni, we were ready to go. Sharon checked my vitals, weighed me in, took blood, and got me in a good mood. Off to the radiation room, where smiles and hugs from Sharon were always present when I came in and when I left for home. Every visit was enjoyable and made it far easier to show up for treatment.

One warm and stormy day while I was on the table, the electricity failed. No power meant the end the treatment that day or wait it out. We waited, and I have to say, I felt like a pharaoh on the table being cared for like royalty! Sharon and her team were terrific. They put together my “fight-back pillow,” diploma and the very informative CURE magazine, which I will continue to receive for life. At the annual cancer survivor picnics that Morris Hospital sponsors, Sharon and her team treat past cancer survivors to a healthy picnic, with fun games, music and contests enjoyed by all.

And after 42 treatments I am happy to say I am in complete remission. Digital exams show nothing. Test readings are way down (to nil), shots and pills were suspended. I have a clean bill of health (so far). Yes, Santa brought me something far better than a big screen TV. Health is everything, and the TV will have to wait. My gift instead is more holidays to enjoy with our grandchildren. (To all men over age 50, please get a PSA test and Gleason numbers checked!)

The order of the day is all smiles and gratitude for Sharon and her team. She is a beacon in the night for those of us with cancer, and a source of great help and support for those who have trouble understanding what steps to take, often calling elderly patients’ doctors for them. She treats all incoming patients with genuine compassion and great care. She helps patients receive proper medications and helps get them filled if there are any problems. She provides counseling and gets social workers to attend to her patients’ many important needs.

Sharon Bernico truly is my Christmas angel.