Local nurse receives award for cancer care

By Sky Opila

Although her small, Mattoon, Ill., office waiting room may only have about four chairs, and a busy day consists of only seeing about 16 patients, Andr‚ Metzelaars is being recognized as one of the best doctors in the nation by the American Cancer Society.

On Monday, March 20, the American Cancer Society announced that a Carle Foundation nurse would be one of 10 recipients to receive an annual, nationwide award given to people who are exemplary in the field of cancer care.

Andr‚ Metzelaars, registered nurse, Bachelor of Science in nursing and oncology certified nurse, will be given the Lane Adams Quality of Life Award for outstanding service and leadership in her field. This coming May, the award will be presented to Metzelaars at a ceremony in Atlanta.

“My biggest fear right now is that I have to go out and find something to wear,” Metzelaars said with laughter. “I can’t even fathom what that night is going to feel like, to stand up there with (the other recipients).”

Metzelaars has been a chemotherapy nurse at Carle Foundation Physicians – Mattoon/Charleston, 200 S. Lerna Road, Mattoon, since February 1995. The nomination for the award came from her patients, peers and fellow physicians.

“Andr‚ has a unique ability to project a healing, positive attitude to persons with cancer and their families,” said Robert Good, medical director at Carle Foundation Physicians – Mattoon/Charleston in a press release. “Her experience, knowledge and faith enable her patients to better care for themselves.”

After being nominated, Metzelaars’ information was sent to a national council.

“The award is given based on the quality of the care given to patients,” said Shayne Squires, regional communications manager for the American Cancer Society. “Andr‚ truly loves her job and loves what she does.”

However, Metzelaars is very humble about the recognition and was surprised to hear she would be recognized for her work.

“When I look at the list (of other recipients), I am very humbled because I just don’t feel like I belong there,” she said.

With all her years of work, Metzelaars has never been recognized on such a grand scale.

“Sometimes you go home at night and ask yourself if you made a difference in someone’s life today,” Metzelaars said. “When something like this happens, it’s totally uplifting and it makes you think that you can make a difference in a patient’s life.”

The Lane Adams Quality of Life Award recognizes anyone who offers some sort of exemplary care to patients experiencing cancer, according to an official press release. The award has recognized more than 200 people in its 20-year existence.

Moreover, the award recognizes those committed to extending “the warm hand of service,” a phrase coined by the late Lane W. Adams, a former executive vice president of the American Cancer Society known for his quality care.

“My goal is just to make (treatment) as un-cancer orientated as possible,” she said. “Cancer is a part of people’s lives, but it does not have to overtake them.”

In addition to her work at Carle, Metzelaars has spent hours doing work with the American Cancer Society. Between the Look Good, Feel Better program and Relay for Life, she has dedicated her time to making life better for cancer patients throughout central Illinois. She has also done her own work with a local support group.

“(The group) is available to patients currently undergoing treatment,” she said. “We don’t care if they’ve been getting treatment for 20 years or two days.”

Metzelaars’ work is proof that the American Cancer Society has a strong local basis.

“A lot of people think that (the American Cancer Society) is only national, but we’re not,” Squires said. “Between the programs Andr‚ participates in, including Relay for Life, there are just a variety of things we do on a local level.”

Award or no award, Metzelaars is still just a physician who loves what she does and will continue to do so for many years.

“A lot of people comment to me about how depressing my job must be,” Metzelaars said. “I think this is the best job in the world.”