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“Help others heal:” Nurse who has survived cancer guides others through their journey

Marloe Esch

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee nurse who works with breast cancer patients became a patient herself. She’s using her experience to help others navigate thought their cancer journey with healing words.

Marloe Esch got her devastating diagnosis when she was just 29 years old. The oncology nurse was familiar with breast cancer treatments because of her day-to-day duties. Soon, she was actually receiving chemotherapy where she worked -- from her co-workers.

Esch worked part-time through her treatment, right alongside other cancer patients.

Marloe Esch

"I understand what cancer is," said Esch. "I understand how we treat it."

Marloe Esch

Esch wasn’t as prepared for the emotional impact that kind of diagnosis has on you.

"There were certainly times when all you need to do is make eye contact with another person going through it," said Esch. "I could just feel in a way I've never felt before. I felt confident as a nurse, but when you go through something like that, it's a new perspective."

As a form of therapy, Esch put pen to paper.

Marloe Esch

"I did a lot of writing," said Esch.  "I've always been someone who has written through life, especially during traumatic life experiences."

Esch blogged for Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin and took part in an online writing group offered for breast cancer survivors. It helped her to see her experiences in a different light -- and Esch wondered if Froedtert had ever offered anything like it.

Working with Small Stones Wellness Center, Esch got funding to offer a writing program for free to cancer patients and survivors.

"I thought of the big themes I struggled with as a patient and find creative prompts that I enjoyed as a writer and thought I could bring those to others," said Esch.

Esch has held two writing workshops so far and she says the response has been awesome.

"Everybody has a story to tell. It's awesome to see people write something, share it with the group and be empowered by the response they receive," said Esch. "People sharing their experiences with others can really help themselves heal, but also help others heal."