In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

July 18, 2019

Cancer Battle Inspires Sara Segner to Become Something She Never Dreamed

By In the Loop

Just three days into her schooling to become a nurse, Sara Segner switched gears and applied to medical school. Her chosen field is one she's already quite familiar with.


Sara Segner told herself she'd never become a pediatrician. If you know Sara's backstory, you might understand why she felt that way.

Sara had a number health issues in her teens, as ABC 6 News reports. "I actually have Crohn's disease that was diagnosed at 14," she tells the station. "Then I was diagnosed with mononucleosis. They were like 'Oh, you just have mono, you'll get better.'"

But Sara didn't get better. After additional testing, her doctors would figure out why. She had a rare blood cancer called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis that was causing the white blood cells in her body to "build up" and attack from the inside, ABC 6 News reports.  

With the help of her care team and several rounds of chemotherapy, Sara flushed that cancer from her body just in time to be knocked back down with a second cancer diagnosis. This time, the station reports, it was lymphoma.

More chemotherapy and more worry followed, but Sara would go on to beat that cancer, too. And while some of the credit goes to Sara, she says it also goes to her care team at Mayo Clinic for catching her cancer early. "The doctors there diagnosed me with HLH early. If someone wouldn't have done that, I don't think I would have made it," she tells ABC 6 News. "Being at Mayo was a big part of why I'm even alive."

It's also a big part of why Sara, just three days into her schooling to become a nurse, switched gears and applied for the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine. "It just sort of hit me that 'I'm not supposed to be a nurse, I'm supposed to be a doctor,'" Sara tells us. "I remember calling my dad and telling him I was switching to pre-med and he immediately said, 'Yeah, that makes sense.' No one was surprised."

Sara was surprised, however, when she got a call from Susan Romanski, M.D., officially welcoming her to her new medical school. "I legitimately thought it was a joke," Sara tells us. "I actually said, 'That's funny. Who is this?' It took her a while to convince me it was real and then it was just several moments of shock as I tried to compose myself."

Now into her fourth year at the school, Sara is preparing to enter a specialty she never thought she would. "I told my parents the one thing I'd never do is pediatrics," Sara tells us. "It always felt too close to home for me." But after a pediatrics rotation during her second year of med school, Sara realized it was a perfect fit for her. "I can really connect with sick kids. And given my own experiences as a patient, pediatrics is also where I can make the biggest impact in our patients' lives."

She's also reconnecting with some of her former doctors. "Sometimes when I am on peds service, I'll have to call a specialty service, and it will be the person who treated me on the other end of the phone," Sara tells ABC 6 News.

You can read more about Sara's experience here. Then reconnect with us by sharing your comments below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.


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Tags: Chemotherapy, Dr. Susan Romanski, Employee Stories, Lymphoma, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, Patient Stories, pediatrics, Sara Segner

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