By Mike Hoeferlin
Reproduced with permission from BOOM! magazine, Spring 2019, page 22

Nancy Fritsch Encourages Fellow Cancer Patients

Fritsch volunteers at Boone Hospital, Missouri Cancer Associates and with first-year medical students. Photo by LG Patterson

Metaphorically, Nancy Fritsch hit the ground running in Columbia running in 1965 and she’s not stopped since. In fact, she still runs every morning. “Exercise is a big part of my life,” she states. “I’ve been running for 50 years and I’ve been in the Columbia Track Club seemingly forever.” She has run in almost 200 5k and 10k runs.

Fritsch is a volunteer ambassador at Boone Hospital Center and she volunteers at Missouri Cancer Associates. “I fill water cups, provide warm blankets and, more importantly,” she says, “I just visit with the patients and sometimes write notes of encouragement.” Her positive approach is greatly appreciated. After each session she goes to the chapel and prays for her patients.

As a cancer survivor herself, she believes she became a better volunteer because she knew exactly what the patients were enduring.

While her cancer is in remission, she has a profound appreciation, compassion and empathy for what it’s like to deal with cancer. “If you haven’t been through it you really can’t see the whole picture [but] you know how it [cancer] affects everything and everyone in your family … so, I’ve ‘walked the walk’ and I know what they’re going through,” she says.

Fritsch also mentors first-year MU medical students through the Heyssel Senior Teacher Educator Partnership, or STEP program. Fritsch and her husband of 55-years, Fred, have been meeting with students and going to STEP lectures and activities for 14 years.

“I’ve been an educator most of my life,” Fritsch says. After 28 years at Parkade Elementary and seven years in the Parents as Teachers program, she retired from Columbia Public Schools at the age of 62. She continued her impact on children by volunteering at Russell Boulevard Elementary for 10 years and at Columbia Catholic for decades.

Nancy and Fred are huge MU athletics fans. “We particularly love [MU] women’s basketball and we rarely miss a home game,“ she proclaims. She is a voracious reader who regularly rides her stationary bicycle while reading lengthy novels and short stories. “You can’t quit. You have to have a plan for when you retire,” she says. “I’m just not ready to stop. There is a personal joy in volunteering.”