Sharing Our Journey

September 2, 2019
Shawn Boink, PT

"We already know how extraordinary she is, and it's time to tell everyone else."

We, the members of the gynecologic support group at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio, are nominating our support group's nurse navigator, Kim Hoerger, B.S.N., RN, OCN, as an extraordinary healer. We already know how extraordinary she is, and it's time to tell everyone else.

Aultman Hospital started a support group for women with any type of gynecologic cancer in 2017; hence, we met our navigator, Kim. Most of us know Kim as being one of the nurses in our gynecologic oncologist’s office. We didn't know what to expect from this group, or even if we wanted to be in it, but Kim is very knowledgeable due to her professional background and seems open to our direction about where the support group should go. She's doesn't look intimidating: She's 5 foot nothing, looks like a pixie and smiles with her eyes and from ear to ear. But it's the aura she gives off that pulls us in. She's inviting, not pretentious, and genuinely wants to know how we are each time we see her, either at the doctor's office or in group. She remembers personal things we mention in the group and asks us about husbands, kids and pets before tackling any disappointing news or challenges we may encounter. And, she reminds us that our condition doesn't define who we are. Thank you, Kim!

One member of our group found herself as an inpatient at the hospital on the night of our meeting. Kim asked our incapacitated friend if the group could join her in her room, and the answer was a resounding yes! Kim didn't have to drag anyone to our comrade's bedside; it seemed natural that she was encouraging everyone to share some positive energy. We are a proud sisterhood of survivors due to Kim and her guidance, and we would do anything for a sister. Kim has sacrificed quite a bit of her personal time to talk or text with us, to calm us or just listen to us rage, and she has never turned us away. If one of us has heard about a new type of treatment, Kim will follow up and find out more information, whether it be by asking our doctors or other doctors on staff or looking it up online. She always finds us an answer, and an honest one! She doesn't placate us but talks to us in a professional and sympathetic manner. Then, she breaks protocol and hugs us ... tight.

She has special gifts that I hope you never have to see. When the gravity of what our doctors have told us sinks in at 2 a.m., we know we can text her to help us make sense of something that no one should have to endure. Without any condescension in her voice, she talks us off the ledge, and we virtually feel her arm around our shoulder. Most of us in the group are still in treatment, and Kim has helped all of us remember that we are more than cancer. Sometimes that's all we need, someone to make us feel safe and "normal," if there is such a thing when you live with cancer. But that's what Kim does — she makes us forget for a moment that we're fighting something inside us and reminds us that she's right there beside us at all times. She's in it to the end with us, sharing the journey ... our journey.

To truly understand the way she helps each person she touches, you need to hear from individual members of our group. Here are some of their thoughts about Kim:

"It is so hard to find the words to say how wonderful Kim is, not only to myself but to the group. Her selflessness is indescribable, and I am so very thankful to have her as a mentor." — Annette

"From day one, she has been amazing! I truly feel I would not have gotten through this without her. I am blessed to have her in my life. Kim has gone above and beyond when

I've needed something. She is the epitome of a true caregiver and healer. She is an asset to Aultman!" — Stacy

"Kim has helped me bring down walls that I built trying to protect myself. She's helped me understand that I need people around me to rise like a phoenix." — Shawn

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