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Cancer Survivors Celebrate in Bronxville

When Bronxville resident Andrea Zeltser was diagnosed with a cyst the size of a cantaloupe on her ovary, her doctor told her it was best to have it removed and checked "just to be on the safe side."

"I asked if I should go into the city for the surgery, but my doctor said there was nothing I could get down there that I could not get here at Lawrence Hospital," she said.

So Zeltser, 51, opted to have the surgery at the Bronxville facility. Sure enough the huge cyst was benign, but her surgeon thought to examine the other ovary. "He turned it over and found a small cyst, which turned out to be third stage ovarian cancer."

In addition to her surgery, Zeltser went through treatment for her disease and happily reports she has been cancer free for the last 6 years. But on the days when she was really sick, she said it was a comfort to know she was so close to home. "I could walk home from here if I had ," she said. "And that was a wonderful feeling."

Zeltser also notes that she had very personalized care at Lawrence Hospital. "One of the surgical nurses came on her day off to see how I was doing," she said. "Everyone knew my name."

One of the Lawrence Hospital staffers who knew Zeltsers name is Shirley Stagner who has been a nurse practitioner in oncology for 40 years.

After the treatment is over and the patient gets a clean bill of health, Stagner's work begins.

"It was in 2006, we began to increase our awareness that being cancer free should not be the end of treatment," Stagner said.

Stagner explained that many patients have residual health issues like tingling or numbness in their hands and feet, residual swelling and fatigue. Lawrence Hospital created services for post cancer treatment ."Our goal is to help people get on a path to have the best quality of life they can possibly have," she said.

Stagner said in addition to a physical and emotional evaluation, she counsels patients on how to continue to continue their good health. Stagner becomes a lifeline to patients, and keeps them connected to support groups that meet twice a month.

Clearly, Stagner is beloved by the roughly 50 patients in her group as evidenced by the hugs and praise she received from them at a dinner held by the group yesterday at the hospital

One of those patients was Mary Yannaco, 59 of Eastchester. Initially Yannaco did migrate down to Manhattan for treatment for her breast cancer. But during the course of her cancer treatment, Yannaco developed other problems.

"I got so sick, I had a fever for two weeks straight," she said. "I was hospitalized with pneumonia and fever three times in just a few months." Depleted from that illness on top of treatment for cancer, Yannoco opted to complete her treatment closer to home at Lawrence. "I was so sick and everyone here was so kind and professional. "

For Stagner, coordinating doctors visits, phone conversations and running the support group does not deplete her. She gets as much as she gives, she said.

"Working with people with cancer has been an incredible journey for me," she said. "I have loved it from the moment I have started though it has not always been easy for me. I would not have it any other way

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