Although her chemotherapy is complete, one Jamestown woman says her cancer journey is not over.

Rhonda Ravely, Jamestown, began chemotherapy this winter after doctors diagnosed her with cancer of the left breast.

What started as a golf-ball-sized tumor is now challenging for her oncologist to find, Ravely said, saying she is looking forward to the next steps of surgery and radiation. May 28 was a “big day” for her as she rang the bell to celebrate her graduation from the JRMC Cancer Center.

“I’m feeling wonderful,” she said.

Ravely, 55, is a material services technician at Jamestown Regional Medical Center. She remembers when JRMC partnered with Roger Maris to open the JRMC Cancer Center in 2019. She also remembers how much miles matter when a person is sick. Since it opened, the cancer center has saved nearly 500,000 miles of travel for residents in the Jamestown region.

“Miles matter,” Ravely said. “For me, I say ‘miles of smiles’ because I didn’t have to drive to Fargo. Some days, I received my chemo at lunch and then went back to work.”

The convenience of care close to home meant reduced travel, reduced time away from work and increased quality of life. Not having to worry about transportation costs while balancing reduced hours at work meant Ravely could concentrate on healing.

“The chemo is working,” she said. “I can tell a difference.”

Helping her heal is her husband, Tom, as well as her siblings and coworkers. One of the reasons Jamestown Regional Medical Center is a Top 100 Best Place to Work is because of the culture of caring.

Current and former colleagues like Cindy Nelms, Nikki Bohn, Elaine Kuske, Shelly Fercho and Debbie Holmstrom have gone especially out of their way, Ravely said, saying they’ve helped with meal preparation, quilt sewing and even just listening.

She jokes with appreciation about Nelms and how she offered to vacuum her house.

“Tom is wonderful,” Ravely said. “He took care of all that.”

Ravely is the 11th person from the JRMC Cancer Center to ring the graduation bell. When a breast cancer survivor rings the bell, it is significant to Lisa Jackson, JRMC Foundation Director.

That’s because the Marsha Leigh Espeseth family gifted the bell to the JRMC Cancer Center in memory of the family matriarch. Marsha Espeseth died of breast cancer in 1987 at the age of 34. Her husband and grown children donated the bell in her memory, so people today like Ravely could ring the bell that she never could.

“Community members like the Espeseth family and so many others made the cancer center possible,” Jackson said. “I hope they see how their generosity continues to support the community in general and individuals like Rhonda specifically. Cancer is challenging enough. This support makes a difference for our friends and neighbors.”

Today, Ravely is continuing the tradition of giving back. She and Jackson are planning a special fundraiser to support future patients like Ravely. Losing her hair felt like losing control, Ravely said. Giving back and helping others is her way of reclaiming her power.

“One of the hardest parts of this is losing my hair. For a woman to lose her hair, it’s something,” Ravely said, her voice breaking.

The next steps for Ravely include meeting with her surgeon in July. In the meantime, she plans to camp and spend time with her family.

“I’m ready to get this done and move forward with my journey,” she said.

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