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The Cutting Edge - Breast cancer treatment with heart

Cutting Edge Spring 2012

Breast cancer treatment with heart

Date: March 1, 2012

Judy and Leo Zickler have provided funding to help Lillie Shockney and the Breast Center in gratitude for the care Judy has received.
Judy and Leo Zickler have provided funding to help Lillie Shockney and the Breast Center in gratitude for the care Judy has received.

If there was a saving grace to come out of Judy Zickler’s experience with breast cancer, it was Lillie Shockney.

Zickler and her husband, Leo, were spending their winter in Florida—as they do each year—when she got the diagnosis. And, because the couple had long trusted their medical care to The Johns Hopkins Hospital, it was the first place they called. When Judy arrived at the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center for her first appointment, Shockney met her in the waiting room. “She just put her arms around me, gave me a giant hug, and said ‘Honey, you’re going to be just fine,’” Zickler says. “Lillie is just so unique.”

In fact, she says, everything about her experience at Hopkins was encouraging. Every physician, radiologist and nurse she encountered was professional, kind, compassionate and supportive. “It was a very positive experience,” she says. “If you can turn cancer into a positive experience, it was.”

But it was Shockney—a nurse, faculty member and administrative director at the Breast Center—who forged a special place in the Zicklers’ hearts and minds. “I was so impressed by the way she paid attention to me as a patient,” Judy says. “It’s such a big hospital, and it could be easy to get lost in the shuffle, but because I was lucky enough to have Lillie by my side, I didn’t.”

Any time she found herself panicking, whether because of a test result or something she read online, Judy could call Shockney, who always answered, no matter where she was or what she was doing. “One night I was afraid the sutures from my surgery were coming out, and I called Lillie,” Judy recalls. “It was nine o’clock at night and she was trying to catch a train home, but she sat in the train station and talked me through it. I just couldn’t believe someone would take their own private time like that. She’d send me emails at midnight.”

At the same time, Judy says, the Zicklers became worried for Shockney, whom they saw being pulled in many directions at once. Meanwhile, they wanted to do something to demonstrate the gratitude they felt for the care Judy had received. “So we said we’d like to support the breast cancer center, and specifically Lillie,” Judy says. “We wanted to relieve some of the stress on her.”

To that end, the Zicklers have made nearly $500,000 in contributions to Shockney and the Breast Center. Much of that money has gone to fund patient advocacy programs and a new nurse navigator position to help guide patients through their treatment and experience—a role Shockney has always been dedicated to.

“She is just on top of everything,” Judy says. “She’s been amazing, and she’s turned into a friend.”  

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