The Meaning of Care Magazine
Positivity and Optimism Shine Through Ups and Downs of Fremont Woman’s Cancer JourneyPublished: Dec. 20, 2023
That’s the one word that countless people use to describe Jeanie Bogenreif. More often than not, she’s smiling or engaging in a conversation.
Recently retired, Jeanie, 67, enjoys taking care of her flowers, decorating her house for different seasons and holidays, going for walks, reading and spending time with her husband, Nick.
And while bouts with lung cancer have slowed her down, she doesn’t have to search very far for reasons to remain optimistic.
“There’s a lot of stuff that still brings me joy even though cancer’s always something that just hangs over my head like a pendulum swinging back and forth,” said Jeanie, of Fremont. “But there’s a lot left to life.”
Joseph Auxier, DO, Jeanie’s Methodist pulmonologist, believes that her attitude has been essential to her healing.
“She has been extremely optimistic and positive, which I strongly believe has impacted her care in a positive way,” Dr. Auxier said.
The day after her 60th birthday, Jeanie underwent surgery at Methodist Hospital to remove 20% of her right lung because of a cancerous spot.
After a few weekly chemotherapy sessions, she was eventually told there was no remaining evidence of disease.
Nearly five years later, Jeanie received alarming news.
“I previously had my port removed, and I thought I was done with everything,” she said. “But no. They found cancer in my lymph nodes next.”
On May 18, 2021, Jeanie received her second cancer diagnosis. That same day, Nick was sent home from work because he suffered a spinal fracture on the job.
“People usually say, ‘Oh boy. Your luck isn’t running very well here.’ But I’m just glad we’re both still here,” Jeanie said.
After her new diagnosis, Jeanie had weekly chemotherapy and completed 33 rounds of radiation treatment – five days a week for nearly seven weeks at Methodist Fremont Health. She managed to make it through the first few weeks without a hitch but then started experiencing negative side effects during the final two weeks. She couldn’t eat or swallow and ended up on morphine to manage the pain.
Despite the hardships, Jeanie’s care team recognized her optimism.
“She’s just a really great example of someone who can fight their illness but not let the burden show,” said Megan Grote, MSN, APRN, AOCNP, a nurse practitioner with Nebraska Cancer Specialists who works closely with Jeanie’s oncologist, M. Salman Haroon, MD. “What makes Jean unique is that she’s always been a positive, upbeat, friendly lady.”
Jeanie believes a combination of things helps keep her going.
“Prayer. Belief in God. Appreciating the small things,” she said. “And having the love and support of my husband, my family and friends, and the support of the hospital.”
Alex Lawless Siebels, BSRT (R)(T), manager of radiation oncology at Methodist Fremont Health, understands that her staff plays an important role in each patient’s journey.
“One of the best parts of our job is that we get to develop relationships with these people who are going through a tough time,” she said.
She added: “It’s not about just giving them the best technical care. It’s also about providing them comfort.”
One of the ways that Jeanie found comfort from the radiation oncology staff was through a shared love of music. She enjoyed the music being played during treatments and brought in her own CDs for the staff to play for her and the other patients.
Because she spent five days a week at the cancer center in Fremont, Jeanie developed a strong comradery with the staff.
“You have to use their strength to pull you through,” Jeanie said.
“The patients who do well are ones who have positive attitudes,” Siebels said. “And a lot of that comes from the connection they have with their care team.”
After completing the chemo and radiation therapies, Jeanie went through what she called “hard chemo.” In the process, she lost her hair and feeling in the balls of her feet.
But she never focused completely on herself.
“She was also focused on her neighbors,” said Christine Balch, BSN, RN, OCN, a former infusion nurse with Nebraska Cancer Specialists. “She would try to be as supportive as she could, especially for new patients. She was very aware of other people struggling with their treatment.”
And other patients couldn’t help but notice Jeanie’s colorful quilt. The quilt — made by friends at the district court office whom she knew from working for an attorney’s office — was something that she always brought with her.
“That’s my Linus security blanket,” Jeanie said. “I have it with me for every treatment. And I love it.”
Last year, Jeanie started immunotherapy to stay ahead of any potential reoccurrence. And this summer, she started receiving home health care to drain fluid from a space in her chest where part of her lung and some of her lymph nodes used to be.
Ashley Doherty, BSN, RN, one of Methodist Fremont Health’s six home health care nurses, admires how active Jeanie is in her own care.
“She’s so humble and open to everything,” Doherty said. “She’s like a model patient. She’s really knowledgeable. She understands the education and what direction her health is going and how to achieve healing.”
Grote also notices Jeanie’s informed questions during checkups.
“You can tell that she does her own research on her cancer diagnosis, the disease process and wants to know more,” Grote said. “And I find that helpful as a provider.”
Dr. Auxier has seen Jeanie throughout the ups and downs of the last seven years, and one thing remains consistent.
“I can’t think of a time when she’s ever come in frustrated or upset,” he said. “She just always says, ‘What do we need to do?’”
Thankful For Life
After working for more than 20 years in payroll and accounting at a local attorney’s office, Jeanie retired in June.
She’s no longer heading to the bowling alley or golf course with her husband, but they enjoy cooking together, walking around area lakes, visiting with friends and family, going out to eat, and going to movies.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I’m thankful I’m here,” Jeanie said. “And I just keep plodding along. I have good days and bad days, but I just keep fighting through it.”