Sarah Sauls is a pediatric oncology nurse at Sunrise Children’s Hospital, part of an interdisciplinary team dedicated to providing excellent healthcare to meet the needs of its patients and community.
Sauls has always wanted to be a nurse and work with kids. After having the opportunity to work in a pediatric oncology clinic during nursing school, she knew this was her calling in life. “There are definitely hard days that can tug at your heart,” she said. “But kids are strong, resilient and inspiring. They still play, laugh and joke around, even during treatment.”
After a failed pregnancy in late 2012, Sauls was ready to try again, but began having a dull ache in her left breast. Wanting to be extra cautious, she asked her gynecologist for a breast ultrasound. The test results found a small mass, but because of her age she was told not to worry, and given the green light to try to get pregnant again. Still unsure, she asked to see a specialist. Following a biopsy, she was diagnosed on Feb. 6, 2014, with invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer.
As she was only 27 years old at the time and had no history of breast cancer in her family, this was a surprise. “I was starting to feel crazy, and the diagnosis was somewhat of a relief. At least I knew what was causing the pain,” she said. She started chemo on Feb. 14, 2014. Sauls and her husband decided to start treatment as soon as possible, instead of freezing any eggs, because of the tumor size and location.
“If we chose to freeze any eggs or embryos, I would have to wait weeks before I could begin chemo. I was afraid of the cancer spreading. It was a tough decision,” Sauls said. She also found out that she carries a genetic mutation, BRCA2, and may be associated with the history of prostate cancer on her father’s side. It is important for people to understand how their family history can predispose them to other types of cancer.
“I feel having cancer has made me a better nurse; I can relate to what my patients are going through,” she said. Even with her advanced training as an oncology nurse, “It was still scary for me,” she explained. “But some of the kids I work with don’t know life without cancer. Seeing how strong they are, inspired me more than they’ll ever know.” After treatment, including chemo, bilateral mastectomy, radiation and prophylactic ovary removal, she became a peer leader for a survivor support group. “I want to help others by letting them know they’re not alone in this fight,” she said.
Sauls is the peer leader for the young survivor support group that meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Breast Center at Sunrise. For additional information on this or any support group meetings, call 702.784.7870.