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Over 70 cancer survivors and caregivers attended the Cancer Survivors Celebration hosted by Phelps Memorial Health Center.

Eric Hruska, Director of Specialty Clinics, welcomed attendees and said, “We are fortunate to live in central Nebraska and have the access to care that we do. We have progressive hospital administration and Board of Directors who know the importance of bringing the best technology and services to you, close to home.”

Eric shared that we have exceptional medical providers, primary care providers, and with Phelps Memorial Health Center’s recent joint venture with Pioneer Heart Institute Phelps Memorial has over 30 visiting specialists for a variety of services.

“We have an Imaging department that offers screening for breast cancer with mammography, ultrasound, and MRI.” He added, “We have lung cancer screening using low-dose CT, and the imaging department at PMHC, in conjunction with Radiologists from Advanced Medical Imaging in Lincoln, perform biopsies that aid in diagnosis and treatment when needed.” 

He said that the oncology department continues to grow our partnership with Cancer Partners of Nebraska, which collaborates with Nurse Practitioner Stacey VanBoening to provide top-of-the-line oncology care. Partnering physicians include Nathan Green, DO, Steven Dunder, MD, Haris Zahoor, MD, and Scott McHam, DO.

Eric introduced the featured speaker, Stacey VanBoening, and said “She’s our nurse practitioner, the heart and soul of our oncology program.” 

Stacey told those in attendance that her passion is helping her patients through their cancer journey. She said, “We celebrate a lot in oncology.  Sometimes it’s big things like great scans, completion of treatment, birthdays and sometimes is smaller things like a good platelet count, a decent night's sleep, or even a bowel movement.”  The crowd laugh and she said, “If you know, you know.”

Stacey referenced a sermon she heard at church the previous weekend and said one should work as if you are working for the Lord and serve as if you are serving for the Lord. She said, “I feel so blessed that what I do serving all of you is called work. I see so much strength in this room, I see caregivers working for their family and friends, and survivors serving each other.”

Stacey said that she often gets asked “What can I do to make this better or be healthier?”She told attendees that although there is no magic switch, small things can make a huge difference. She stressed how well our bodies do with physical activity and said, “Increasing activity by walking improves lean muscle mass, decreases blood pressure, decreases blood sugar, improves metabolism, improves anxiety, improves sleep, and improves immune systems which all lead to better overall health.” Stacey challenged survivors and caregivers to increase their physical activity by 10%.“If you can get up each hour and walk around for 2-3 minutes you can make these changes you can make a difference in your overall health,” she said. 

The guest speaker for the evening was Denise Mohlman, a cancer survivor, caregiver, Reach to Recovery Volunteer, and part of the Voice of Hope organization since 2015. Denise said, “Since I’ve begun Voice of Hope, my goal is to share with others. When we tell our story we give others hope. Hope that we will one day find a cure for cancer. 

”She shared that her cancer journey began when her granddad got cancer in 1978.  She became a caregiver. “Back then there weren’t as many options and you often didn’t survive.” Also in her family tree, she lost a cousin to cancer.  Her 2nd child was diagnosed with Undifferentiated Sarcoma at 10 months old.

“This was not an easy time for us,” she said.  “Our oncologist was in Kansas City, a 400-mile trip from our hometown.  After several surgeries, months of chemotherapy, and study drugs, Drina is a thriving mom with two children of her own.”

Years later, at the age of 50, Denise’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then years later, her mom was diagnosed with lung cancer.  During these years, I had cousins, aunts, and uncles diagnosed with cancer. She said, “And, on October 24, 2016,  I was told those words, “you have cancer”, by the doctor I was working for. I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with sentinel node biopsy on the left side.  Reconstruction was unsuccessful, as my body rejected the tissue expanders, and I became septic.  After the second one was removed it determined by biopsy that my body had a 50% chance of rejecting them again if I attempted again.” A year later she underwent another surgery to revise incisions. During both surgeries, she also fought lymphedema, first on the left side and then on the right side.

“I share my story to give hope so we can find a cure and hopefully our children and grandchildren do not have to go through what we have gone through,” she said.

Kim Lovitt, Arla Houck, Denise Mohlman and Keri Berry, members of the Central Nebraska Relay for Life Leadership Committee were in attendance and shared information about the Central Nebraska Relay for Life. The event will take place, on June 7, 2024, at Harmon Park in Kearney.

The event is open to everyone. Funds raised through Relay For Life help the American Cancer Society improve the lives of people with cancer and their families as the only organization combating cancer through advocacy, research, and patient support, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to prevent, detect, treat and survive cancer.

 Rich Watson, a 26-year cancer survivor, will be the keynote speaker at the event.  The full event will be held from 5:00 pm-10:00 pm at Harmon Park in Kearney. Those attending may come and go at the event.  A dinner is served for all registered survivors. All are welcome to attend this event.  Survivors may register for the event and also receive a free t-shirt and yard sign at or by calling 800-227-2345.