Who tells nurses to how to stay healthy? You might think it’s the doctors they work with, but often it is fellow nurses. One such influential nurse is Deborah Petty, MS, ARNP, assistant professor of nursing at MidAmerica Nazarene University. Petty teaches at MNU’s Liberty, Olathe, and Ottawa locations in the RN to BSN program. The one-year program provides the coursework necessary for registered nurses to complete an accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing degree while working full time.

Petty’s curriculum has long included a discussion of prevention and early detection for all sorts of health concerns. But now, when she covers information related to breast cancer, Petty has more than good advice. She has personal experience.

Two years ago, Petty’s annual mammogram showed an area of concern. That month she had 10 appointments with oncologists and surgeons, resulting in a personalized treatment plan. The first step of which was surgery one month after her initial diagnosis.

Because her mother had breast cancer, Petty had undergone annual mammograms. When her cancer was detected she had to put herself in the hands of others to determine the best course of treatment.

“I think they do a really good job of guiding people through the process,” Petty said of her doctors and health care professionals. “I was comforted in being a nurse because I knew what they were telling me was based on current research. So I was confident they were suggesting the best course of treatment.”

After two surgeries, 12 weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and an oral chemotherapy which she will take for the next several years, Petty is cancer free.

So how has her experience changed how she teaches nursing classes?

“For me, having breast cancer has not been anything I’ve tried to hide, so when the subject comes up in coursework, I share and we discuss it,” she says. “I’m not afraid to share, and that contributes to their awareness for themselves and their patients. Also, I can give my students a patient’s point of view and then reinforce what we as nurses need to do.”

Petty says that though the public is generally aware of good health practices women might not allow the time for early detection and prevention of disease.

“I think as a whole we’re really good at wearing seatbelts, for example, but we need to be good at eating right, getting exercise and seeing our physicians annually,” she says.

When asked why women don’t get mammograms or perform breast self exams regularly, Petty suggests it’s because they don’t take the time.

“I had neighbors and friends who as a result of my diagnosis went and got mammograms,” she states. “They just hadn’t taken the time before. Women tend to take care of everybody else and they need to take the time to take care of themselves so that they can continue to care for others.”

deborahPetty-for-printPetty says support from friends and family, as well as the opportunity to continue teaching during her treatment, are all a part of her remarkable recovery.

“I’m grateful to God for being where I am, cancer free for over two years,” she exclaims. “I appreciate life in a different way.”