Beating cancer together

ALBERT LEA, Minn. – A breast cancer diagnosis has brought two area women closer together.

Julie Latusek and Joan Stiles have been undergoing radiation treatment at the Albert Lea Cancer Center, but they’ve been going through it together. They started out as complete strangers that only shared similar appointment schedules, but now, they have grown into the best of friends. This new found friendship wasn’t just a bonus to their recovery, but Stiles believes that it could have actually helped their recovery.

“I’ve been a nurse all my life,” Stiles says, “so in my lifetime, I can tell the difference in so many things in the medical world and I think one of the things, just in general, is the support groups and it’s a tremendous help.”

Latusek finished up her treatment just two weeks before Joan, but it wasn’t long before she was back to support and congratulate her friend on her big accomplishment.

“I was waiting for the time to come in where I could come back and see her and bring her flowers,” she says, “I was counting the days, believe it or not I was watching the days on my calendar.”

When the day came, Stiles thought of the perfect way to celebrate her success, and that was to celebrate together. They would both take part in a new tradition at the clinic of ringing a bronze bell.

The symbolic tradition started just after Latusek finished her treatment, and while she was there to celebrate her friend, she couldn’t help but ring in her success once again.

Dr. Timothy Kozelsky was their radiation oncologist at the clinic.

While he says he has seen many patients throughout his time working there, he has never seen a bond quite like the one Stiles and Latusek made with one another.

“You know, after weeks of therapy they get to know each other,” he says “Sometimes it’s just the stress of coming back-and-forth to the cancer center, but they could share those things and share that bond.”

The two have plans to meet up and have lunch to continue their new found friendship, and both women say they’re excited to talk to each other about something other than their treatments.

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