"My father became an overnight alcoholic. My mother never got over it." I gasped.
Who was this woman who had survived what was a horrid tragedy, who was going to be giving me drugs that could kill me?
"I loved that book 'cause it helped me to see my life." She scooted around and without my realizing it, pulled a metal pole in place, a clear plastic bag hanging from it. "You're having chemo to shrink that darn cancer, right?" I nodded, spellbound. "You've come to the right place."
I smiled. As she positioned the pole and found my recently installed port for the needle, I marveled. Not only was she at work saving my life, she'd continued to save her own. My breathing slowed and deepened. I sat back as she counseled me to stay off the Internet. "Bring me all your questions. Call me anytime. If I don't know, I'll find out. I promise." She looked into my eyes. "You're a little scared, right?" she asked as she pulled in closer. I nodded, my eyes filling with tears. "I get that." She turned to my husband, Dave who had come in to be with me. "She's doing great. I just told her to call me anytime. You too. Okay?" We'll be a team. The three of us."
The room had a dozen chairs, most filled with patients. Kitty looked at me as if I was the only patient in the room. Who is this woman, I asked myself again? How does she do this work? I found out soon enough. This blonde, fifty something, dynamo had been doing this job for twenty-five years. And loved it.
"It's the patients that keep me sane. You folks are my inspiration," she said one day.
Once cleared to have surgery, new results determined I needed additional chemo. I was amazed at the calm I felt. I'd be able to return to Kitty. How did she do it?
I was now looking forward to chemo. As she pumped me full of Taxol, she sang funny songs, sweet songs and inspiring songs. We caught up on books we were reading. My tears were soaked up in laughter as she scooted around the room, funny hats in place, holiday cheer brightening her face and the faces of those around her.
Hugs in abundance helped ease the heartache of fear and isolation. When I asked if she thought I would be well enough to be Grand Marshall at my friend Peggy's ordination in a few weeks, she not only reassured me I could, but when the day came, she surprised me by coming to support me, helping keep my wig in place.
As my treatments continued, I watched with awe as this petite and vibrant woman, wheeled from patient to patient, dealing up deadly drugs with competence and caring. I knew I was one of the lucky ones. The dynamic team of nurses, with Kitty as their comedic star, gave health and humor in abundant doses. As I pushed through the last of my treatments, I was invited to throw out the first pitch at the Red Wings Baseball Game for Breast Cancer Awareness. Kitty would sing the National Anthem. Acapella. I did throw the ball and she filled the stadium with her strong clear singing. Awesome, a word she often uses, is one that applies to her.
When I told her of the book I was in the middle of writing when I was diagnosed, she beamed. "You'll finish it. I have no doubt." A year after my treatments ended, I did finish it. It was published the following year. And Kitty sang at the book launch. She continues to accompany me to presentations, singing and bringing laughter and love wherever she goes. A portion of the proceeds from Jeremiah's Hunger are donated to Pluta Cancer Center, where Kitty Forbush continues to bring a magic and majesty to the healing arts.
Submitted by patient Elizabeth Osta in honor of Kitty Forbush, B.A., R.N. Pluta Cancer Center, 125 Red Creek Drive, Rochester, New York 14623