We think every woman who maintains hope in the face of breast cancer deserves honor. For the second consecutive year, our sponsor BJ’s Wholesale Club has helped us provide special recognition to a survivor whose courageous spirit has also allowed her to make a difference for others affected by the disease. This year’s NBCF Courage Award, named in honor of Dr. Gina Villani, was awarded to Lisa Halkias-Thiesing, a two-time breast cancer survivor and Director of Clinical Services for the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention. Lisa shared with us her inspiring story of experiencing breast cancer from the patient’s perspective:
She will never forget when she was first diagnosed. It was a warm September day in 2004, and it coincided with her younger brother’s last day of chemo. What should have been a celebratory date suddenly became a bittersweet one. She soon had to juggle time-consuming radiation and chemotherapy appointments while raising three sons as a single mom and acclimating to a new job at the Ralph Lauren Center. In the midst of all this, she was also dating her now-husband, Chris, and says his commitment during that very difficult time helped strengthen her courage. One year later, she faced a recurrent diagnosis and soon underwent two major surgeries that started yet another round of chemotherapy.
Lisa specifically chose to receive care at the cancer center where she works. While many of the facility’s patients lack insurance or financial resources, they receive high quality care, thanks in part to grant funding from NBCF. She’d seen firsthand the compassion and excellence extended to all patients and knew her treatment would be top notch. She recalls that her doctors and nurses were attentive, supportive and each gave their own special forms of encouragement—some with humor, some with advice and others with prayer.
Although it has been nine years since her last treatment, Lisa continues to be thankful for the kindness and compassion she received as a patient. Her own cancer journey has given her powerful insights into the patient experience, helping her better assist patients in her current role as Director of Clinical Services. She also knows that the hospital is a second home for the staff and has made it her mission to deliver operational excellence so the doctors and nurses can focus on treating and healing patients. She feels blessed to have a job that allows her to serve the less fortunate. This gratitude motivates her to deliver growth in all of RLC’s programs including patient navigation, community outreach, referring provider partnerships, on-site food pantry, smoking cessation programs, and an initiative with local restaurants who offer patients special meals free of charge. Most importantly, Lisa ensures that every patient is treated with respect and dignity and feels they are special, rather than just another cancer patient.
Thank you to BJ’s for helping us recognize Lisa and presenting NBCF with a check for $295,000 at the event. Together, we are Helping Women Now. If you missed last year’s story on the Andrea Roane Courage Award winner, Tammy Gray, watch this great story put together by the wonderful team at WUSA-9.