Celebrating My Mother, Women’s Health, and History

Wanting to Help Other Women Facing Cancer

My mother, Louise, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 at age 78. The lump was detected during a routine mammogram.  Mom made the decision to undergo a lumpectomy.  Surgery was followed by a course of radiation of 20 treatments over five weeks. She survived and the cancer has not returned.

Mom was approached by Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) / St. Elizabeth Hospital about helping fund a women’s health clinic. The center would bear her name. It was a generous gesture, to be sure. I asked mom what inspired her, thinking it was her own cancer diagnosis. Mom expressed a different sentiment, “I knew too many women in their 40s and 50s dying of breast cancer, a terrible disease. My volunteer work with St. Elizabeth told me this endeavor could help save more women’s lives.” And so the Louise D. Schleich Women’s Health Center was dedicated in March.

A Way to Improve Treatment

The clinic at St. Elizabeth Hospital provides state-of-the-art equipment and a method of treating women’s cancer which surprisingly is not the norm. For a women diagnosed with cancer, the medical team that will administer their treatments and monitor progress will meet with them, their oncologist, primary care physicians, radiologists, and others to develop a treatment plan best suited to their needs. The approach of doctor and specialists coordinating treatment should be a norm. However, this center is one of only two in Nebraska that takes this approach.

A Brighter Future

Mom is very proud of the women’s health center and its goal of saving women’s lives. The dedication was both inspiring and emotional as a standing-room-only crowd turned out to recognize her contribution to the community. Four women whom my mother didn’t know but are breast cancer survivors themselves, came to tell her thank you for helping make the center possible. Many family members were present, as were neighbors and members of her church.  She was a bit overwhelmed by the community outpouring of love and gratitude.

The Louise Schleich Women’s Health Center is mom’s greatest legacy. But for her what truly matters is that the center will serve as a model for more promising cancer treatments for women across the US. As we celebrate Women’s History Month I also pay tribute the compassion and generosity of my mother.


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