Special Assignment

Childhood cancer survivor finds his calling as a nurse

CREATED Apr. 9, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Eric Lunderskov is a nurse at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. He's very good with his young patients.

"I joke that I never have to grow up, I'm a big kid," Lunderskov said.

The 23-year-old works in the childhood cancer unit, or the 'HOT Unit'.

"At the core level, these kids are kids, and they need to be treated like kids," he said. "They can't be cooped up in a room, having all these treatments done."

The reason he relates to them so well: He was one of them.

"I mean, who is ever ready to hear that you have cancer, and especially at that age you don't even know what cancer is," he recalls.

Lunderskov was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma at the tender age of 15.

"You're kind of ripped away from your surroundings, what is normal to you, like social interactions, going to school, seeing friends," he said.

Lunderskov endured intense chemotherapy, but his pediatric oncologist, Dr. Mike Kelly, says you wouldn't know it. "He's goofy, that's pretty much one of the major things about Eric, is that he's got a very quirky sense of humor, which is great."

Lunderskov eventually made a full recovery. He went on to play soccer at college, where he found his calling.

"I came to the realization I wanted to do nursing. I was very inspired by the nurses I had here on the HOT Unit," he said.

Lunderskov is now working at the hospital he knows so well. Dr. Kelly fondly remembers the first day he saw the 23-year-old in his scrubs.

"I walked on the floor, I was the attending oncologist, and I was walking into a room and Eric was walking out, and I was like, just kinda looked at him and said 'Eric, how you doin?' and you know he's like 'Yeah, Dr. Kelly,' and being very formal at that point," the doctor said.

Lunderskov doesn't usually tell patients about his past, but it does come up sometimes.

"I'll say, 'Oh I know', if they say they don't feel good, and they'll say 'Oh, you don't know.' And I'll say actually I do, and I can kinda go into it a little bit and say I was a patient here," he explains.

Even after spending all those years in treatment, Lunderskov still loves being at the hospital every day. "It's the old adage, find something you love doing, you don't have to work a day in your life. It couldn't be more true."

Lunderskov has been in remission for about seven years, and is doing great! He still goes to Dr. Kelly for occasional follow-ups, and is part of a cancer survivors group.