Employee Spotlight: Nancy O’Neill

Jefferson Regional

How long have you been at JRMC?

I have been a Surgery X-ray Tech for 35 years, and I am working on year 36 at JRMC.

I’ve seen a lot of change since I first started. I was 20 years old, and I’m 55 already. I’ve seen them turn around the front of the hospital to the back and completely redo radiology. We even had to process the X-rays in a dark room at first.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the work I do, because I love taking X-rays in surgery. And I love our surgeons. They just make it enjoyable. I have a good time every day, and my coworkers make it overwhelmingly positive. I get angry when I hear outside people talking negatively about our hospital, because I am JRMC. I love my hospital.

We understand that you are a breast cancer survivor. Would you like to tell us about that experience?

My experience with breast cancer was pretty severe – I went through two rounds of chemotherapy. I first found out I had breast cancer at 41, and my mother died at 41 with breast cancer that had metastasized in her lung. My prayer was just let me see my kids grow up, because at that time my youngest daughter was eight or nine, and I was nine when my mother died. I did chemo and radiation the first time they found it. Then three years later in 07, I was getting a mammogram and decided I needed a chest X-ray too. They found a mass on the lower part of my lung, and I had surgery and another round of very aggressive chemo. That ended in 07. Fast forward to January of 2018, and I’ve been cancer free for 11 years.

How has your life changed since having breast cancer?

When I know that women are having Mediports for breast cancer, I try to go over before they have their surgery and talk with them about my journey, what I’ve gone through and what they can expect. My husband says it’s my calling. That maybe I got cancer so I can talk to other women about what to expect and what they’re going to go through. At first, I was apprehensive about doing it, because I didn’t know how they would feel about it. If they’re religious, I ask if I can pray with them before they go back, and I’ve never had anyone refuse me. We all have a purpose, and I feel like some of my purpose is talking to women about what they’re going through. I’ve held their hands; I’ve hugged them; I feel what they’re going through. I like that part. I don’t like that they have to battle breast cancer, but if I can make it just a little easier for them, then that’s awesome. I just want to help somebody.

Now I take life one day at a time. I told my husband, “This is the way we’re going to live: for this day.” People are so funny about their birthdays. I don’t care – I’m getting one more day. If I get one more, everyday is a birthday.

How impactful was the support you received from your JRMC coworkers and physicians?

Support from family and coworkers when you’re going through these kinds of things is very important, and we have that in our hospital. We have a great support system in our X-ray department. There were days that I didn’t feel like being here, but I wasn’t sick enough to stay home, and my coworkers took up my slack. My coworker Carol was awesome. She said, “Why don’t you sit down for a minute – I’ve got this patient.”

When I was sick, our doctors took a personal interest in me, and not just because I’m a hospital employee. I work with them. I see how they treat their patients and how they go the extra mile for whatever is going on with their patients. That’s why this is my hospital, and I am JRMC – because I love it here – because I’ve seen the way that our patients are treated.

What advice would you give to others since having this experience?

My advice to people is this: Live this day like it’s the day that you’re going to fulfill your New Year resolution. Live today like it’s the best day. Live today like there are no other days and live it to the fullest.

I didn’t have any New Year’s Resolutions. I live life to the fullest, love the best I can and take it as it comes. Tomorrow I may wake up and feel a lump somewhere, but today I didn’t. Tomorrow can worry about tomorrow – it’s today. And today, I am cancer free.


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