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Nursing Official Battled Cancer While Still Working, Gaining Master's

by JOHN HALE ,  kj online | 2012-05-25

Mary Anderson survived breast cancer while she was earning a master's degree in nursing leadership online from St. Joseph's College in North Windham. Mary Anderson, left, and Tiffiny Rooney are not only graduates of St. Joseph’s College, they are also cancer survivors.

She also was holding down a top-level job as assistant chief nurse at the hospital at VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus. "It certainly made me more driven to reach my goals in life," Anderson, 53, of Richmond, said of her bout with cancer. "I love my job; I love where I work. I was very fortunate that the VA offers this program."

Anderson was referring to a program in which the VA continues to pay its employees' salaries as well as their education costs while they are pursuing college degrees. In exchange, employee-students agree to continue working for the VA for at least three years after they graduate.

She earned her master's degree last December, but wanted to hold off on accepting it until spring so her 88-year-old father and her mother could watch her march in cap and gown with the May 12 graduation procession at St. Joseph's. Also earning a master's degree Anderson was her friend Tiffany Rooney, of Vassalboro, who has worked with Anderson at different locations over the past 18 years. They were able to study together in some courses.

Rooney, a nurse manager for home-based primary care at Togus, is a survivor of thyroid cancer and lung cancer. Anderson was born in Germany, where her father was stationed with the U.S. Army. When he retired, he moved back to his hometown of Bath, and Anderson graduated in 1976 from Morse High School in Bath. She received an associate degree in nursing in 1978 from Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and a bachelor's degree in nursing in 1984 from the University of Southern Maine.

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