Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Celebrating hope and every small victory

Published: Aug. 30, 2016 at 4:52 PM CDT
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Finding joy when faced with a cancer diagnosis isn't easy. That's why celebrating the small victories becomes very important. In fact for one Sioux Falls woman, she's using her own cancer journey to help give hope to others facing the same battle.

"God, we just ask that you would again be at work powerfully today working through her care team and through the medicine that you have provided." prayed Reverend Laurel Buwalda.

This is how every one of Randi Van Der Sloot's chemotherapy treatments have started.

"We just say a little prayer and make it happen, we have Skyped in my sister from Denver, you name it but God is very present in our journey and in this path." said Van Der Sloot.

Randi's journey with cancer has been longer than most. This is her third time in the infusion chair.

"I have what is called triple negative breast cancer, it's sneaky breast cancer and so what it means is my body and the kind of cancer that I have doesn't really respond to much." said Van Der Sloot.

She's endured a double mastectomy and 25 rounds of radiation. All while being a wife, mother, and teacher. She's kept her faith front and center, empowered by Rev. Laurel Buwalda, who is the chaplain for the Avera Cancer Institute and Prairie Center.

"I get to come alongside them and meet them wherever they are at spiritually, and just support them and encourage them and really offer them hope." said Van Der Sloot.

You can quickly tell with Randi, she's going to do all she can to make sure others share in that hope. That's the idea behind these special wooden plaques an idea she got from one of her online support groups.

"There started to be these little posts about ringing the bell! And I thought, what is this about?" said Van Der Sloot.

Randi learned about celebration bells that were hung at other facilities where patients would ring them after completing their chemotherapy treatments. She knew she had to bring them here. But in talking with Laurel, Randi wanted these bells to be even more inclusive.

"I really prayed about it and workshopped through it and thought about it and that's where this kind of bell, the celebration bell or the bell of hope came out, because I wanted people to be able to celebrate any moment big or small." said Van Der Sloot.

So Randi had three made. Each with their own bible verse and on August 9th they were dedicated and placed throughout the Avera Prairie Center. The first, is marked with a cross for her cousin and is for the gynecological oncology wing. The second, has a celtic knot for Randi's friend and the hematology oncology wing. Then there's Randi's.

"It is actually a ribbon that is made into a treble clef and bass clef and that is sort of my symbol!" said Van Der Sloot.

It also has her verse which her music students helped pick out when she first started her journey.

"Be strong and courageous! So I thought that was perfect for this unit because a lot of times it is hard to find courage and find strength or find that in the day." said Van Der Sloot.

You won't find her name attached to any of the three, she doesn't want that. Instead, Randi wants every person facing cancer to look at the bells and ring them out for a personal victory. No matter what. No matter when.

"It's your friends, it's your family, it's true." said Van Der Sloot.

"I think the bells, I think they will be uplifting for the patients. I think they will be uplifting for us, the staff and physicians that work here, just to be able to find more ways to celebrate the blessings that we have. Those blessings that tend to ride right alongside the burden that it is to have cancer." said Rev. Buwalda.

Randi says they chose the type of wood for the plaques because of how it looked. They later found out it was Acacia wood, the same used to build the Ark of the Covenant. Something Randi calls another "God-cidence" on her journey fighting cancer. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.