For 51 years, Shirley Frizzell gave care and love to strangers who became like family.
"This has been my heart and soul," says the 71-year-old nurse's aide. "It has been my life."
Among those she grew close to is Claire Juergens, who is now battling dementia at Burlington's Prestige Care and Rehabilitation. Claire no longer remembers Shirley's name but lights up when she sees her face.
"We're pals!" Claire exclaims, as the two hold hands. "This is nice!"
"I love it on her days like this," smiles Shirley.
But Shirley now finds herself in the position of needing help.
She is currently in remission from bladder cancer but now doctors believe she may have lymphoma. Shirley has been unable to work as she figures out her next steps.
The bills are piling up but that isn't what hurts the most.
She can't stand to be away from the patients who have come to depend on her.
Monday was her first visit to Prestige since the doctor's news one month ago.
"Being able to make a difference in their lives means everything to me," says Shirley. "Taking care of these people and hopefully helping them with their quality of life has meant the world."
Those who have experienced Shirley's sweet compassion are now trying to return it. Claire's daughter Jillian is among those contributing to a Go Fund Me campaign https://www.gofundme.com/3grrp9c to help with expenses.
"Here's somebody who is wonderful and caring and loving and who has given her whole life to being a caregiver. To have this happen just doesn't seem fair," says Jillian.
Right now, Shirley's prognosis remains uncertain.
"I just hope I get good news," says Shirley. "I just want to come back and keep helping these wonderful people.