Breast cancer survivor shares importance of compassion

Published 12:01 am Friday, October 8, 2010

Sherrie Spann of Samson knows first-hand what it means to have breast cancer. Her diagnosis came in 2002 at the age of 39 and followed the death of her own mother at 48 from the same disease.

Spann told her story of survival to nursing students at LBW Community College’s MacArthur Campus in Opp at a recent reception in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Speaking from experience, Spann focused her remarks to the nursing students on the need for compassion from health care providers.

Receiving the diagnosis was a blow, she said, but she leaned on family, friends and faith.

“I cried for about five minutes,” she said.

“Then I reached for my faith.”

With a friend’s help, Spann got an appointment for a second medical opinion. Then she underwent surgery and chemo treatments.

Having caring, compassionate nurses and doctors gave her the strength to continue at times when she doubted her ability to survive.

“I honestly did not know if I would make it from one chemo (treatment) to another,” she said.

The most difficult times for Spann were at night, she said.

“When it was dark, the emotions hit,” she said. “You think you’re going to die. Then the light comes with day and you keep going.”

But that’s not what she remembers the most about her experience, she said.

“The sickness and treatments are not what stands out in my mind,” she said “It’s the people who took care of me.”

Spann told the students that when they become nurses, they can make a difference in the healing process of patients.

“I needed somebody to comfort me, to stand behind me and help me fight,” she said.

Having the right “heart” in taking care of patients is what being a nurse or doctor is all about, she added.

Today, Spann is celebrating six years as a cancer survivor. She encourages all women to get annual mammograms.

Sherrie Spann, left, spoke to nursing students about the importance of compassion in health care professionals. She is shown with her daughter, Jasmin Saunders. | Courtesy photo