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LOUIS -- St. Louis native Cyndi Stotler, now a project nurse manager, began working with breast cancer patients in 1999. Eleven years later, she became one of them.
Stotler is now a survivor, sharing her story every day through her work at Gateway to Hope, a local organization that provides comprehensive treatment for uninsured and underinsured women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
On Sunday, the Cardinals recognized Stotler for that work, as well as her journey. She was one of 30 Honorary Bat Girls honored across Major League Baseball on Mother's Day. Stotler, along with four members of her family, were introduced before the Cardinals' game against the Braves. Stotler threw out an honorary first pitch before enjoying complimentary tickets to the game.
"I'm still in shock that I'm standing here," Stotler said, while on the Busch Stadium field. "It's the most amazing thing that I've ever been awarded with. I just do what I do every day. I don't feel like it's anything great or anything special. It's just who I am. I want to give back so that somebody else's journey is less frightful than it needs to be."
Stotler began working at Gateway to Hope on April 13, 2011, the same day she started radiation treatment for her cancer. She finished that treatment on June 7 and has been in remission since.
Stotler is responsible for coordinating patient care at the center, but her impact has been much more substantial. Stotler regularly becomes a confidante to patients, who know that she has the ability to relate to their fight against the disease.
She can talk to them from both a medical perspective and a personal one. Her ability to empathize is why Stotler now refers to her diagnosis as "a gift and a blessing."
"My job is not my job, it's my passion," Stotler said. "It's helping other women know that this is just a journey that we're on. It's not the end of the road. It's just a curve in the road. The rewarding thing for me is when a patient says, 'I don't know what I would have done without you.'
"I was always passionate about breast cancer. But now, it's different."
Stotler's co-workers nominated her for this honor, which MLB first introduced in 2009. Hundreds of submissions were received, with winners of the Honorary Bat Girl contest chosen by a panel of players and celebrities, as well as input from fan voting.