What Devoting A Career to Help Others with Cancer Looks Like

September 27, 2020
Volume 14,

Mary Schueller devoted her entire career to helping others with cancer, and the devotion she displayed to that cause is what makes her an extraordinary healer.

My sister, Mary Schueller, M.S.N., RN-BC, AOCNS, CHPN, is a great example of what it’s like to devote your career to helping others. She truly cares for those in her path and tries to help in whatever way she can. She tirelessly helped our family navigate all the difficult and winding roads when dealing with cancer diagnoses that affected all our lives. Her nonstop efforts helped resolve many of our family’s daily concerns.

In 1994, our father, who was a dairy farmer and vegetable grower in rural Wisconsin, received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. He underwent numerous rounds of radiation and chemotherapy in a town that was more than 20 miles from the farm he ran with our mother.

They both taught us to be hard workers and support one another, no matter what it was we were going through. Our mother, for the most part, transported him to and from appointments, but it was Mary who immediately gave us other five siblings folders filled with papers and articles to explain the process. Because of her position as an employee of Hospital Sisters Health System, she was able to share a lot of information with us and attend many of our father’s appointments and treatment sessions.

She was very patient with our mother and answered many of our family’s questions when we didn’t understand things. Sadly enough, our father passed away in 1996 under hospice care after numerous attempts at treatments. Then, in the early 2000s, our mother received diagnoses of various medical issues, the last of which was vulvar cancer, and we started the whole cancer journey again. As the one who lived nearest our mother, who had moved to an assisted living facility closer to her doctors and hospitals, Mary ended up responsible for most of her care.

Mary worked tirelessly in her own daily job as an oncology clinical nurse educator, which involved traveling several days a week to another major Wisconsin city through rain, sleet and snow, and then came back to our mother to continue nursing her through all the daily events that are involved in cancer care and treatment.

I honestly can say that I never heard her complain about being the one responsible for our mother’s care. She set up a page on the CaringBridge website so that we would all get updates and could help in small ways, which was so wonderful for those of us who did not live close by. Our mother underwent various radiation, surgical and chemotherapy modalities, which Mary so expertly navigated because of her experience in the field.

Whenever one of us had a question, we posted it on the CaringBridge site, and she would explain it to us in lay terms. I don’t know where we would have all been had Mary not been there to help with all this. Going through this cancer journey for the second time with our other parent was taxing, to say the least, and Mary provided the comfort and support we needed until our mother passed away in 2017, also under hospice care.

Besides holding a bachelor’s and a Master of Science degree in nursing, Mary has various oncology and gerontological certifications that demonstrate her continual pursuit of knowledge in the ever-changing medical world. She has held many positions throughout her more than 41 years of employment at Hospital Sisters Health System, including nursing assistant, staff registered nurse, oncology nursing specialist and even interim chief nursing officer, giving her a vast amount of knowledge that she is happy to share.

Mary is a member of many different organizations, including the Oncology Nursing Society; the Southeastern Wisconsin Oncology Nursing Society, of which she is past president; the Northeastern Wisconsin Oncology Nursing Society; and the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association. As a member of the Oncology Nursing Society, Mary was part of the first delegations of nurses to visit China and Cuba.

As if she didn’t already have enough to fill her hours, she also stays involved in her community by being an American Red Cross blood donor; a participant in the PROMISE study, which is testing healthy people for signs of multiple myeloma; a Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund board member; an Alverno College school of nursing volunteer assessor; a volunteer with the American Cancer Society; and past chair of the Wisconsin State leadership board. She was actively involved in the Tobacco-Free Sheboygan County Coalition and served as co-chair for many years. She continues to be involved with many of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life events and has been on various additional committees.

Whew! I’m exhausted just writing down some of the things she does. I don’t know how she keeps going. Cancer is exhausting, time-consuming and unforgiving at times. I thank God all the time that Mary was able to help my large, extended family navigate our cancer journey while providing support for our parents. She showed great medical knowledge, patience and love and continues to be incredibly helpful on a daily basis to everyone she touches. She is truly an extraordinary healer on so many levels!

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