Jessica Eickstaedt sat in the exam room with her parents, worried about what lay ahead of — and inside of — her. She was just 11 years old. Doctors in her hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, had found a large tumor in one of her ovaries and referred her to Mayo Clinic for treatment. "I was so scared," she tells us.
That changed when Jessica met Timothy Wilson, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at Mayo. "There was such a weight off my shoulders after meeting with Dr. Wilson," she says. "It was like I had a blanket of comfort over me. Our love story with Mayo started then."
That love story soon included Jessica's future husband, Nathan, as well. The two began dating in seventh grade, shortly before Jessica discovered a new lump in her abdomen. Tests revealed another tumor, and Jessica was rushed back to Mayo Clinic for more treatment. This time, she would need surgery and chemotherapy. In treating Jessica, Dr. Wilson's goal was twofold: "We first wanted to keep her alive," he says, "and then not destroy her ability to have children."
Happily, both goals were achieved. Today, Jessica and Nathan are married and have two young daughters, something they weren't always sure would be possible. In the years between her diagnosis and motherhood, Jessica often drew hope from her appointments at Mayo Clinic. "Dr. Wilson told me he thought I'd be able to have children, and I clung tightly to his words over the years," Jessica says. "We have so much gratitude for him."
The Eickstaedts say they're grateful to Dr. Wilson for something else as well. Both have pursued health care careers, and credit Jessica's experience at Mayo with helping to direct their paths.
"When Jessica was diagnosed, I felt so helpless," Nathan, now a radiology resident at Mayo Clinic, says. "I never wanted to feel like that again when someone close to me needed something. Dr. Wilson gave Jessica a second chance at life, and I wanted to have that kind of impact on patients." Jessica, who's become a nurse, tells us the care she received from compassionate nurses at Mayo Clinic helped spark her interest in the field. "They took care of me like they would have taken care of their own family," she says. "I felt so loved, and I wanted to be able to take care of people that way."
Shortly after having her first child, Jessica wrote a letter to Dr. Wilson. She wanted him to know she'd become a mother, and to thank him for his care and inspiration. Dr. Wilson recently rediscovered the note while packing up his office in preparation for retirement, and decided to place a call to the patient he'd last seen when she was a teenager.
"I was so excited, it was like a movie star was calling me," Jessica tells us. "I tried to formulate all of my gratitude to him. I hope that when he reflects back on his career, he realizes the immense number of people he's impacted." Including, of course, Jessica. "My experience at Mayo has shaped everything we've done in our lives."
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