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Shari Ruesga’s first experience with UW Carbone Cancer Center came as a patient.
Ruesga, who now serves as nurse supervisor in the radiation oncology clinic, was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer in 2013. As part of her treatments, Ruesga came to UW Carbone for internal radiation (brachytherapy) under the care of Dr. Kristin Bradley.
Ruesga had spent much of her career working as an emergency department nurse. However, the exceptional experience she had at UW Carbone gave her a new purpose.
“There’s that age-old saying, ‘things happen for a reason,’ and I just felt really drawn to oncology nursing,” she said.
May is Oncology Nursing Month, honoring the critical and compassionate role these nurses have in guiding patients through their cancer journey.
Ruesga always knew she wanted a career helping others. When she was in college, she found that nursing fit that passion.
Her first job was at a rural critical access hospital, working in every care level that hospital provided. She felt most at-home working in the emergency department.
“Moving forward, that’s where my focus had gone to,” she said.
After her cancer diagnosis inspired a new career goal, Ruesga was excited to see an as-needed nursing position open in up in UW Carbone’s radiation oncology clinic. She has been part of UW Carbone’s team since 2017.
Ruesga recently was re-diagnosed with cervical cancer, and she continues to work while receiving treatments to maintain her mental and physical well-being.
“I’ve felt very blessed that, aside from being fatigued at times, I have had a minimum amount of side effects from treatment,” she said.
Ruesga said she loves oncology nursing because she can help people at a vulnerable time in their lives. She has the personal perspective to know how remarkable of an impact a dedicated and caring provider can have.
Still, it can be overwhelming at times to have cancer be the focus of both her personal and professional life. Ruesga makes sure to prioritize spending time with her family and do stress-relieving activities like reading and ax throwing.
Ruesga said her experiences give her a personal understanding of her patients’ feelings and concerns. She encourages them to stay positive.
“I want to help them know there is life with cancer,” she said. “Patients hear the C-word and the first thing they think is, ‘this is it,’ but it’s not. There are amazing, amazing things happening in the cancer world. Things are changing, new treatments are coming, and it’s just exciting to be a part of that.”