Attention Metro Transit Passengers… by Michelle Shkolnick


I read this little blurb in a professional magazine I was reviewing last week for a work presentation. The author was using it as a metaphor to discuss interruptions at work and their impact on quality and productivity. My mind went instantly to cancer.


“BC” (before cancer) I rode the metaphorical train day in and day out and thought that cancer happened to other people. I am sure that there were people battling cancer on my train each day, but I really did not notice them, let alone ever really think much about what I could do to help them. After all, I was just a passenger on this train. Not the engineer or the dispatcher or the switch person. I was just a passenger. I didn’t have a job function here. I just rode the train day after day, assuming I would get to my destination as scheduled like I had hundreds of other times.


At 12:15 pm the first Friday in March 2001, I heard the words, “You have cancer,” and I was no longer just a passenger on that train. The train on which I had been riding all this time was now the disabled train. It was a feeling like no other when the train came to a grinding halt that day. It sounded ferociously loud, then oddly quiet in the aftermath…quiet enough to hear my own heart beating rhythmically in my chest and my own lungs steadily breathing in and out…although I sometimes wonder how I managed to do that when all the air had just been sucked out of the room. In that instant, I was thrown into the roles of engineer and dispatcher and switch person.

I was stuck. Stuck in panic. Stuck in fear. Stuck in the prospect of my own mortality. How the hell do I get this train moving again?


Less than eight hours after hearing those three dreaded words, I figured out a way to get that train moving. No one had given me any operating instructions, but as the engineer responsible for running the locomotive, it was my job to get things in motion. I did what I was so accustomed to doing…I went to the Internet…and I typed in “cancer.” And for reasons that still remain a mystery to me, I chose the American Cancer Society website ( from amongst the MILLIONS of results that popped up in a fraction of a second. What I needed to get unstuck was right there in front of me…

On that web page, there was a place to click to learn about cancer. If the dispatcher’s job is defined as being the person who is responsible for moving trains over a territory, I had found what I needed. I selected breast cancer from the menu and began reading. I researched the different types of breast cancer and the various treatment options. I found a list of questions that I should ask my doctor and different resources for support in putting my life back together. That night, into the wee hours of the next morning, I got my train unstuck.

Over the days and weeks and months that followed, I ran the rail yard like any good switch person would, managing other crew members along my tracks to ensure we were doing all the right things to handle the situation. Surgery…scans…chemo…radiation…more scans…keeping everything on schedule. The dispatcher part of me was in constant communications with my medical crew, ensuring “occupancy on the tracks” as needed. The train navigated all turns as planned each and every time.


Sometimes it sucked to be on the disabled train. In its wake were other trains that suffered collateral damage and I think it sucked worse to be on those trains. I think first and foremost of my parents and my sisters and my closest friends…their trains came to a grinding halt that day because of my disabled train. On that day in March, they all stopped being just passengers on their trains. They became stewards attending to this passenger…and cooks preparing my meals…and porters carrying my baggage and their own, including sometimes the emotional kind.

How can I ever really thank people for their patience during something like this? What kind of apology can I offer that would ever cover this kind of “service interruption?”

In 2012, over 1.6 MILLION new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. The good news is that 5-year cancer survival rates for “all cancers diagnosed between 2001 and 2007 is 67%, up from 49% in 1975-1977.” There are currently 12 MILLION survivors alive today, thanks in large part to the American Cancer Society. We ARE creating a world with LESS CANCER and MORE BIRTHDAYS!

I will never know what made me choose the American Cancer Society website that night. But I do know that I am eternally grateful for the information that I found there (and for the Relay family that I found three months later) that helped me get – and keep – my train unstuck.

Please know that the American Cancer Society provides valuable information, resources and HOPE if you or someone you love should ever hear the announcement: “ATTENTION METRO TRANSIT PASSENGERS…”

by Michelle Shkolnick – 2012 Hero of Hope

This is the second post of Michelle Shkolnick’s  series as a contributor for the site.  Shkolnick, who is an American Cancer Society Relay For Life Hero of Hope in 2012 will share her captivating writing ability with ACSNebraska readers every other week in May and June.  She will talk about her cancer journey, the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life, survivorship and the people she’s met along the way.  Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and began Relaying in Omaha that summer.  This year, she travels across Nebraska talking to fellow Relayers and inspiring people to help the American Cancer Society make a difference by saving lives.  Please check back with or subscribe to the site because you won’t want to miss a word of Michelle’s stories.  Her next story is scheduled to be posted on Tuesday, June 5.


Lincoln Stars Partner with American Cancer Society for Breast Cancer Awareness Night

The Lincoln Stars and the American Cancer Society are pleased to announce their partnership for the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Night”, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, at the Ice Box on Saturday, November 12, 2011 when the Stars host the Omaha Lancers. The Stars will wear specially-designed pink-themed jerseys that will be auctioned off immediately following the game. Proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will benefit the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“We are thrilled to partner with the Lincoln Stars again in 2011,” commented Mike Lefler, Director of Communications for the American Cancer Society. “The Stars have been among our biggest supporters for several years and this is certainly an event that ACS constituents have come to look forward to each season. This partnership is one of the most unique and beneficial we’ve been a part of and we are grateful to have the Stars organization and its fans be supportive in the fight against cancer here in Nebraska.”

 T-shirts will also be sold at the games leading up to the event night. T-shirts will only be available at Fan Services and will be sold for $10 each with a portion of the proceeds going to benefit ACS.

Lincoln Residents Raise More Than $215,000 in Fight Against Breast Cancer

On Sunday, nearly six-thousand Lincoln residents joined together at the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer® walk to help create a world with less breast cancer and more birthdays. The Society is encouraging women to choose to put their personal breast health first to stay well and reduce their risk of breast cancer. This noncompetitive event united the entire community to celebrate breast cancer survivors, educate people about how to reduce their breast cancer risk or find the disease early, and raise funds to end the disease. The event raised an estimated $215,000 to support the Society’s efforts to save lives by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures and fighting back against breast cancer.

“We are extremely pleased with the support received this year from Lincoln and surrounding communities,” commented Randall Jantzen, the American Cancer Society’s event manager for the 2011 Making Strides walk.  “Each year, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer seems to gain participants and in turn, makes a greater impact on our community in the fight against breast cancer.  The dollars raised through Making Strides will help the American Cancer Society save lives and create more birthdays for mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, friends and neighbors right here in Nebraska.”

This year, Lincoln’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk was one of more than 200 held across the country.  Making Strides Against Breast Cancer supports the American Cancer Society’s unique mission to fight cancer on all fronts and save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or finding it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking research and by fighting back by encouraging lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. Over time, the Society has invested more in breast cancer research than any other voluntary public health organization, spending more on breast cancer research and investing more than $418.7 million in breast cancer research grants since 1971. As a result, more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors will celebrate a birthday this year.

Sponsors of this year’s Lincoln Making Strides event include: Bryan LGH Health System, Schneider Electric, Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center and St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center.

It is not too late to make a donation to Lincoln’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. Visit to help the Society continue making strides and saving lives. For more information about breast cancer, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit


For more pictures of the event, please go to our Facebook Page:!/pages/American-Cancer-Society-Nebraska-Region/133787466690637