Meet Andrea, a UW nurse on the front lines of own health battle

“I just know its going to be a tough road, [but] I don’t see any other option.”
Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A nurse at UW Hospital is on the front lines of a health battle she didn’t see coming.

Andrea Moskal, 36, has spent more than a third of her life caring for patients in the transplant unit. “Self-care in nursing is on the low end because that’s not our mindset. We think of others first,” she said.

Between every shift, Moskal turns her focus to family. Moskal lives in Madison with her husband and 19-month-old son.

“Now, [I’m] definitely trying to do more of taking care of myself,” Moskal said, with a laugh.

But a turning point came earlier this year, when Moskal found a lump on her chest.

“I just thought it was a clogged milk duct, and it all made sense to me. Never once did I really consider that it could be anything more than that,” she said.

Moskal told her doctor anyway. Her doctor told her it was cancer.

“You see in movies. I’ve seen in my day to day life as a nurse. But added bonus is you’re alone because it’s a pandemic,” she said.

While COVID restrictions kept family out of the hospital, Moskal wasn’t exactly alone.

At the time of her diagnosis, in February, Moskal was 16 weeks pregnant. She said she had gone to the doctor for “Baby Girl’s” routine checkup and mentioned the lump last minute.

Moskal has been receiving chemotherapy, a kind that she said is safe during pregnancy. She also said her baby’s delivery wouldn’t be different, though she is getting more ultrasounds than a typical woman would.

“You’re usually like, ‘She’s safe inside, and I want to keep her there. I’m scared for her to come outside’ Well is she safe inside? Because I’m going through chemo, which I know is safe, but you just have those mom thoughts,” she said.

Chemotherapy hasn’t stopped Moskal from working.

“You have to give 110 percent to care for these people,” Coworker Teresa Wearing said. “Her going through this in the middle of her own illness just blows my mind. She’s a real role model and a real hero, I think.”

“[It was] my first day back to work, and I shaved my head,” Moskal recalled. “My whole weekend family had Andrea’s Army t-shirts on. I was not expecting that. It goes to show how supportive they are and amazing and so lucky and thankful to have them as my second family.”

Moskal's colleagues in "Andrea's Army" t-shirts.
Moskal's colleagues in "Andrea's Army" t-shirts.(WMTV/Michelle Baik)

As Moskal receives care from those who know it best, she fights for the life inside her.

“It’s just a crazy thought to think that [Baby Girl] will be born a cancer survivor,” she said. “I just know its going to be a tough road, [but] I don’t see any other option. I just see day by day, going ahead.”

Moskal told NBC15 she hopes to encourage others with her story. “After this crazy year of not going to doctor and making appointments, just follow your gut instinct and mention it because you never know.”

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