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Walking for their patients

Their smiling faces are among the first to greet patients on Essentia Health’s cancer floor, and they wear a number of different hats to help support their patients — friend, confidant, support system and, overall, nurse.

Always finding ways to go above and beyond the care they give inside Essentia Health’s hospital walls, a team of 15 oncology nurses will lace up their sneakers with teal for the first-ever Northland Teal Run to help raise awareness about ovarian cancer.

“I think when somebody or an organization comes forward with a program or opportunity to increase awareness of the diseases that plague our patients, we (oncology nurses) have a lot of energy to do something like that,” said Marian Foehrenbacher, manager of the Essentia Cancer Center who is leading the team of nurses for the walk taking place at the Northland Arboretum on Sunday. “We want to do this walk to remember our patients who have lost their journey with their disease and as a way to increase awareness in our community.

“If we can talk about preventing ovarian cancer and show the importance of having the knowledge to detect its presence, then it’s another part of our job we are happy to help with.”

A cancer that affects approximately three percent of women and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among the female population, ovarian cancer — like many cancers — has yet to be brought to the fundraising walk or run forefront like the success of Susan G. Koman and breast cancer awareness. But Kathleen Gavin, executive director at Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA), is hoping to change all that with Sunday’s run and MOCA’s Tie It Teal campaign.

“A lot of women, and the public too, don’t hear as much about ovarian cancer because it is much harder to detect than breast or other types of cancer commonly seen in women,” said Gavin, adding that an ovarian cancer support group has been in the Brainerd lakes area for the last five years, paving the way for the MOCA sponsored walk/run on Sunday. “And right now, we are with our (ovarian cancer) awareness where breast cancer was five years ago and we know that with continued awareness and events for the public, people will learn more about this disease and ways they can check and treat themselves.

“Right now with our events and presence, we are creating a support system.”

Like the support system of Essentia’s nurses, who all agreed that the ultimate reason to participate is for the connection with their patients; their friends.

“When we tell any of our patients we are doing a walk or run for their type of cancer, they are so excited and so grateful,” said Foehrenbacher. “And I think everyone of us remembers somebody special that went through treatment here and the memories that we created together. We get to learn more about them than just the patient, you give them a friend and really a part of family.”

Cindy Brumberg agrees that being part of that family is why she joined her fellow nurses on the team.

“You talk about everything, not just how their cancer treatment is that day or their health status,” said Brumberg, “instead you ask ‘how’s your niece?’ and always have photos of grandchildren when the grandmothers come in.

“You really get to know them on that personal level. So we walk for them and their family.”

Registrations and donations for the Northland Teal Run can be made at

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).