FARGO — Lonnie Anderson of rural Becker County, Minnesota, is one tough guy. He's been living with stage 4 colon cancer for seven years. On Monday, Oct. 11, he took a break in the middle of chemotherapy for a visit by registered nurse Noreen Clarke.
But Clarke is not only a registered nurse, she's a licensed massage therapist who travels the infusion center at Sanford's Roger Maris Cancer Center to give relief to those fighting cancer.
"I can't have a bad day when I am giving a massage," Clarke said. "I tell you, laughter is the best medicine."
Recently, the nurse of 45 years — who spent many of those years as a NICU and pediatric nurse— has had the tables turned on her. The longtime massage therapist at the cancer center was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I had a routine mammogram and it showed up on a mammogram," Clarke said.
Now instead of listening to stories, she and her patients share their cancer journey together.
"I know what those patients mean, and I have shared some of that with them and immediately there is a bond, a connection," Clarke said.
The massage for cancer patients is offered as part of the survivorship program, where mindfulness and other self-care classes are part of the treatment plan.
Born a premature twin, Clarke says she is drawn to fighters and survivors. Today, she is there to be part of someone's team, no matter what the outcome.
"You become almost like family, her going through her cancer, you just become closer as human beings," Anderson said.
"It is not even a job, it brings such great joy and seeing the reactions from the patients, it just energizes me," Clarke said. "It is nice to have that common ground, that we are on this journey together."