Paying it forward

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | April 03, 2013

Tawny Roeder

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Tawny Roeder and Kendra Glass
For Tawny Roeder, nursing has always been a calling.

"You could call it a 'burning desire,'" she said. "Or maybe just a really strong mother-hen instinct."

In the case of Roeder's specialty, though, the burning desire had a very specific spark.

Roeder, a lymphoma transplant case manager, was once a transplant patient at this very same medical center. So when she tells her charges to never give up hope, they can believe her.

"Oncology would not have been the way I went," she said with a smile. She was placed in the specialty in her senior year of nursing school - only to be admitted to the very floor she was doing her preceptorship on.

"I had nothing but exceptional care here at UNMC when I was a patient - and I knew that someday, I wanted to be a part of providing that care."

Tawny Roeder

Roeder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2008.

"I was just finishing nursing school when I was diagnosed and had my initial treatment in Sioux City, Iowa," she said. "When I found out I would need a stem cell transplant I moved to Omaha. It has been my home ever since."

Roeder didn't take time off as she was undergoing treatment.

"Actually, studying for the boards kind of distracted my mind," she said. "And there's lots of time to study when you're getting chemo."

By the time Roeder had crushed her cancer, regrown her hair and passed her boards, she knew what she wanted to do with her life and career.

"It was a dream of mine to be in a position where I could be the one helping," Roeder said.

As a case manager, Roeder works with Philip Bierman, M.D., to help patients struggling with lymphoma who are undergoing stem cell transplants.

"If I can help even just one person, give them hope, it's a life-changing event," she said.

It's a chance to ease the hardship and fear of others, such as Kendra Glass, a transplant recipient and one of Roeder's patients.

"She gives me hope, when I see someone who's had a transplant and is walking around doing well," Glass said. "And has hair!"

Helping people through what may be the most frightening experience of their lives is "a wonderful thing," Roeder said.

"Everyone going through cancer wants someone to talk to who has gone through it and is doing well," she said. "I had nothing but exceptional care here at UNMC when I was a patient - and I knew that someday, I wanted to be a part of providing that care."

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Mary Bernhagen
April 03, 2013 at 3:29 PM

She's an inspiration to us all! :)

sue anson
April 03, 2013 at 1:20 PM

GOD BLESS YOUR HEART!!!!!!!!What a fantastic story.