Faith's story

Faith sitting in a chair wearing a mask.

Retired special education teacher Faith Geruldsen, a self-described "people person," remains committed to assisting students with developmental disabilities in living their lives to the fullest by serving as a guest reader at local preschools. However, the tables turned when she received a diagnosis of colon cancer, becoming the one in need of assistance.

Doctors discovered a polyp during a routine colonoscopy, prompting the 77-year-old mother of four to undergo a second procedure. A malignant tumor was detected on her colon wall, leading to surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center for its removal. While the surgery was successful, a CT scan and biopsy confirmed that her cancer had not spread. Nevertheless, Faith encountered difficulties in performing everyday activities such as getting in and out of bed, toileting, dressing and climbing stairs.

Once her condition stabilized, Faith chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Saddle Brook to further her recovery, citing a positive experience during a previous visit in 2014. She recalled, "I had been to Kessler for a hip replacement and was very pleased with the therapy I received... It also has a fine reputation."

Once admitted, Kessler's specialized cancer rehabilitation team, led by physicians, including nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and other experts, assessed her needs and devised a comprehensive care plan to restore her independence. Faith made her goals clear – she wanted to regain the ability to perform everyday activities safely, including toileting, getting in and out of bed and climbing stairs comfortably.

Faith began working with her physical therapists to enhance her endurance, strength, and mobility through various core strengthening and gait training exercises, such as marching and stair training. As she made progress, she discovered her inner strength. "It was painful for me to march at first, but I did them every day as part of my warm-up, and now I'm able to lift my leg higher," she remarked.

With determination, she achieved a significant milestone: climbing stairs. "Not that I can do it consistently or by myself, but the fact that I was able to do it was a huge milestone for me,” she said.

Similarly, her occupational therapists demonstrated how to adapt activities to match her ability level using aids like a leg lifter and dressing aids. Faith attributed these tools and techniques to her regaining some freedom. "Using the adaptive equipment like the leg lifter and dressing equipment has helped me with my independence with dressing," she shared. The day she managed to turn and lift her right hip was a game-changer. "Once I was able to do that, it opened the door to so many things,” she exclaimed.

Reflecting on her rehabilitation journey, she had praise for her care team. "It's an excellent program that addressed all my needs,” Faith explained. “The staff was very compassionate and caring; they were very patient with me. The doctors and staff were on top of every issue or problem that came up and had everything covered."

For other cancer survivors, she stressed the importance of hard work. "Give 100% every day to optimize your success."

After two weeks at Kessler, Faith returned home equipped with the skills and techniques provided by her care team. She eagerly anticipated visiting her great-grandchildren and planned to continue improving her strength and mobility through in-home and outpatient therapy.