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Peggy Nelson’s story is a profile in courage and commitment. At age 23, a routine chest x-ray found a malignant mass in her humerus, the long bone in the arm. As a result, her arm, shoulder blade and collarbone all on the left side were removed. Initially she thought she was going to die or, should she survive, never have children. Instead this strong woman subsequently vowed that having one arm was no reason not to live productively. Today, Peggy and her husband, Dr. Michael Nelson, have three children, now in their 30s. Prior to her diagnosis, Peggy earned a diploma in nursing. After her diagnosis she worked as an oncology nurse and learned how to administer chemotherapy with one hand! She has tried to live personally and professionally as an example of hope whether working with patients, their families or the community.
She then earned her master’s in counseling and for more than 20 years has helped individuals with physical disabilities and those otherwise struggling with crises, especially cancer, that can lead to emotional distress. With fierce determination, a keen mind and boundless energy, Peggy has used her skills as a volunteer to make life easier and more comfortable for those in stressful situations. She was a major force in founding The Wellness Community, now known as Cancer Support Community (CSC), a nonprofit organization which serves cancer patients and their families with emotional support groups, stress management programs, support programs for children and educational presentations. All programs and services are funded exclusively by donors and are free of charge to participants. Her leadership and involvement has provided the impetus for CSC to become an organization with the wherewithal to ensure that those impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community.
Peggy brought to CSC an understanding of the programs needed by those on the cancer journey. With her unique background, she helped structure the organization and continues to strongly influence its programs. From its beginning, CSC’s Program Committee has viewed Peggy as its guiding force, helping members understand industry trends, ensuring that CSC stays on track with its mission and keeping the organization on top of the needs of cancer patients. She was the leader in bringing the Staenberg Family Foundation Cancer Services program to CSC when the Miriam Foundation approached CSC to take over its only cancer program. The Staenberg program provides for the special needs cancer patients experience due to this disease. These needs range from mastectomy bras lymphedema garments, and wigs to nutritional supplements, incontinence products, and durable medical equipment (beds, bath benches, etc.). Peggy developed a business plan to demonstrate how implementation of the program would complement CSC’s mission. She also set up policies and procedure to make sure that the maximum number of people in need would be served by the program, which provides medically related products free of charge. Peggy was the first woman to chair Cancer Support Community, presiding in 1999, 1990 and 2000. She is member of CSC’s Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and in 2001 won the organization’s Spirit of Hope Award. Most recently she was honored as a WOMAN OF WORTH by OWL (Outstanding Women’s League). She also chaired the organization’s annual Cancer Survivorship Walk, which raises funds for programs and celebrates those who endure the cancer journey. She remained on that committee for several years.
Peggy brings a level head, passion and true understanding of the needs of the cancer community. Likewise, she is an inspiration to all who struggle and those who are privileged to work with her to ease the burdens, lighten the cares, and empower and educate individuals affected by cancer. Peggy Nelson has spent the major part of her life striving to help the distressed in our community. She truly is the epitome of a Woman of Achievement.