By Brianna Mayhair

JAMESTOWN, N.D. (JRMC) – Without local cancer care, one Jamestown woman says she may have given up.

Last year tested the faith of Alice Wanzek. Between the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and her cancer, Wanzek has been challenged in many ways.  

The 83-year-old’s husband Richard passed away in April 2020. Because of COVID-19, the family buried him in May, six weeks later. In August 2020, Wanzek’s son Mike, experienced a significant traumatic brain injury and could not breathe on his own. In November, she traveled to California to care for her other son, Dean, battling cancer. And in December, doctors diagnosed Wanzek with cancer of her own, in the left breast. 

Doctors surgically removed the lump that month. Since then, Wanzek has received chemotherapy at Jamestown Regional Medical Center. She completed her treatments on June 1.

“We were so happy it was in Jamestown,” said her daughter, Kristi Oscarson. 

Wanzek said she feels fatigued after chemotherapy, as well as her challenging year. With all that she has going on with her family, she may have refused treatment had she needed to travel. 

“I don’t know how we would have done it,” said Wanzek’s daughter, Lisa Reich. 

Alice and Richard raised their seven children on a farm west of Jamestown. Farm living made her a “fighter,” Oscarson said. However, Wanzek credits support from her children, neighbors and friends. 

“I’ve had a lot of people offer to help me.”

Among her helpers are the members of the JRMC Cancer Center team. Registered Nurses K.C. Robison and Garrett Hillius could always be counted on for a silly joke or comment to lighten the mood. 

“They have a sense of humor. But I don’t want to see them again,” she said, smiling. 

 Wanzek’s journey continues, with radiation scheduled this month.

“I’m relieved the chemotherapy is over,” she said.

TWO YEARS. 12 GRADUATES. Nearly 500,000 MILES. 

JRMC opened the JRMC Cancer Center in June 2019 in partnership with Sanford Health. Wanzek is the twelfth patient to ring the graduation bell. Each month, the JRMC Cancer Center provides more than 100 chemotherapy infusions, saving nearly 250,000 miles of travel each year.

“Miles matter,” said Laura Bond, oncology nurse practitioner. “Healing is better close to home.”

Bond said a person’s quality of life improves too, saying the cancer center means people spend more time with family or even work and less time on the road.

“The burden of travel causes significant anxiety. Who will drive me? How can I afford mileage?” she said. “One of the reasons JRMC is a destination for care in the region is because it offers award-winning care right here at home.”

In 2021, The National Rural Health Association named JRMC a Top 20 Critical Access Hospital. JRMC also received Modern Healthcare’s Best Place to Work award each year from 2017-2020.

For Wanzek, she is ready to move to the next chapter.

“The worst is over,” she said. “I have hope.” 

To learn more about the JRMC Cancer Center or to schedule care, visit www.jrmcnd.com/cancer. To learn how we are keeping patients safe, visit www.jrmcnd.com/covid.