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Accomplishment

K-M grad receives award for her courage

Dodge County Independent of Kasson, Minnesota

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College can be a stressful time with all of the homework, essays and exams, but for Kasson-Mantorville High School graduate Nancy (Tietz) Lovaas it was even more challenging, as she was diagnosed with cancer halfway through.

Lovaas was awarded the 2015 Sandy Schumacher Courage Award from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in October for her perseverance during the hard times.

The award has been given out each year since 2012, after Schumacher, a Blugold coach, lost her more than two-decade battle with cancer. The award is presented to a female Blugold student-athlete or alumna who, when confronted with a life-altering situation, used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the event.

Lovaas was humbled to be nominated for the award by a couple of her volleyball coaches. "The fact that they felt the impact I had on others so long ago was important enough is a humbling experience," she said.

After Lovaas graduated from K-M in 1992 she went to Eau Claire where she majored in Biology, with the hope of one day having a career in the medical field. She was also a Blugold volleyball player. During her second semester sophomore year Lovaas' college career came to a screeching halt as she was given the news she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

"I was home for spring break and had some spring training things to work on for volleyball so I was in pretty good shape, but I was feeling pretty run down. I wasn't sure if it was mid-term or late nights in college," she said.

As soon as Lovaas got back to campus, she went right to Health Services where they did a blood test. At first glance, it looked like it might be Mono, but further testing determined it was a type of Leukemia. The next day she went to Rochester Methodist Hospital to get her body ready for chemotherapy.

Lovaas agreed to be a part of a study through the Mayo Clinic in which she got three 21-day treatments, each of those with different medications. "Being a part of a study was important; I thought if someone can learn something from this, why not?," she said.

At the end of those three treatments the computer was to randomly select either a bone marrow transplant or maintenance chemotherapy and, for Lovaas, it chose a bone marrow transplant.

Then it was a matter of recovering to return to school. The bone marrow transplant was done in September and she was back at school in January, although she still had to make frequent trips to Rochester for follow up appointments and transfusions.

She says what helped pull her through those tough times was her faith, parents, husband Brett, volleyball family and a positive attitude.

"Just to know that you can persevere with courage, faith and support from others. You can at least make an attempt to get through anything in life," Lovaas said, about what her experience can teach others. "I have tried to continue that in my life and teach my kids about persevering through things, helping others if they are going through hard times and supporting one and another."

Despite some side effects from the chemotherapy, Lovaas remains cancer free. She is now living in Minnetonka and works as a physical therapist assistant for kids in an outpatient setting through Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. She also is a certified personal trainer at a local fitness center. Lovaas and Brett have two children, Breckyn, 11 and Norah, eight.



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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015



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