Area nurse credits sister-in-law with diagnosis

Storm Nagle, left, and her sister-in-law Linda Baumgardner pose near a breast cancer wreath Baumgardner created. The two were diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer within weeks of each other in 2020.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – After 39 years as a nurse, Storm Nagle has always been the one her family turns to for medical advice. Last October, one of those situations ended up saving her life.

Nagle, 59, of the Richland area, is the manager of Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s air medical services and was there when her sister-in-law, Linda Baumgardner, told her she had Stage 1 breast cancer.

“When I found out I had cancer, of course she’s the one that everybody in the family calls because she’s a nurse, and she said it will be fine,” Baumgardner said. “She told me (the name of) a doctor. I called Dr. (Renee) Arlow, and that was during COVID so you couldn’t really take people with you, but I asked Dr. Arlow if Storm could listen to our conversation, so I put her on speaker just in case Storm had a question.

“Storm kept saying, ‘You’re going to be fine.’ ”

Baumgardner said the two then discussed that Nagle had never had a mammogram.

Nagle made the appointment, but then canceled it.

“I flat out told her, ‘If you don’t go, I’m not having my surgery,’ ” Baumgardner said.

It was this ultimatum that Nagle said saved her life.

After her mammogram detected something unusual, Nagle had an ultrasound and a biopsy before receiving the call on Nov. 5, 2020, that she was diagnosed with Stage 1A invasive breast cancer.

“I was very fortunate. I had early stage breast cancer, saw (Arlow) on the 5th, had a lumpectomy on Nov. 10 and had to have repeat surgery because initially they thought it was just ductal, and it was invasive. But it continued to be Stage 1, so I had to have a second node biopsy, so I had a second surgery on the 24th of November,” Nagle said.

“I’m very fortunate that the lymph node came back benign and that there was no involvement of cancer to the lymph system.”

Her surgery was followed by 21 radiation treatments, and she now takes an estrogen blocker.

Both Nagle and Baumgardner credit each other’s support throughout their cancer journeys.

“We did a lot of comparing notes, and it was nice because having somebody that was going through the same thing as you are,” Nagle said. “They understand, and that’s what’s nice about having different support groups locally. I was very fortunate that I had a family member that was my support group.”

“It definitely has made us closer as sisters-in-law because we’re also warriors and fighters.”

Baumgardner said while the two have always been close, she also feels the experience made them closer.

“It was an experience together, not that it was pleasant, but we shared the pains and talked about it, and it was somebody to go through it with,” she said. “It made it easier for me, not that I wanted Storm to go through it, but that I knew someone that close to me that was going through the exact same thing that I was.”

Nagle said she now encourages others to get mammograms, especially those who are in the medical field.

“I had no lumps. I never had a mammogram because I thought, ‘I’m a nurse, I would know.’ I would check my body for lumps, but it would have been much worse if I would have waited. I tell my sister-in-law she was my life saver, and I am a big advocate now of mammograms,” she said. “I tell everybody to take care of yourself. Just because you’re a nurse doesn’t mean that you can’t be a patient. I learned that the hard way.” 

Katie Smolen is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @KSmolen1230.

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