An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Cindy Kuechle, BSN, RN [Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Illinois ]
Cindy Kuechle, BSN, RN (left) and Revathi Suppiah, MD PHOTO BY KELLY PELOZA
I have had the privilege and honor to have Cindy Kuechle as my oncology nurse for the past three years. Previously, she had been a pediatric nurse for several years. Cindy goes well above and beyond the duties of a nurse in her daily commitment to being an oncology clinic nurse. She is intelligent and very compassionate about her job and patients, and takes the extra time and gives the extra effort to help patients feel at ease.
Most oncology patients are overwhelmed at clinic visits after meeting with the oncologist. But Cindy is very patient and takes the time to provide chemotherapy education to the patients and address their concerns, big or small. Not only does she perform her nursing duties, but she goes out of her way to be a genuine friend to the patient and the patient’s family.
A patient with lung cancer who was undergoing chemo had cravings for a particular cheese from Wisconsin. Prior to his next cycle of chemo, Cindy bought that particular cheese, packed it in a lunch box cooler and surprised him at the next visit. On multiple occasions, she makes social visits to our patients who are admitted to the hospital. One patient who was admitted and then transitioned to hospice stated that his last wish was for a Dairy Queen ice cream. The next day before discharge to home hospice, Cindy brought him his wish.
Whatever the patient’s needs, Cindy will find a way to help. One of our young patients with metastatic colon cancer undergoing chemo was getting married. Cindy organized a surprise gift to be shipped to the young couple. She provides her personal cell phone number to caregivers who are having a difficult time coping or who just need to talk. She is such a loving and compassionate person. And not only does she help out her patients, she is a strong force for her peers. She is always ready to help others whenever needed. She is more than willing to see additional patients and help out other doctors in the clinic because of her excellent interpersonal skills.
Cindy’s super-human work has significantly impacted oncology patients and families. When a patient is feeling ill, Cindy is even more compassionate and more patient with that particular patient or caregiver who needs extra loving care. One patient was experiencing worsening diarrhea for three weeks and, understandably, the patient’s husband was upset and frustrated with what his dear wife had to go through. He was very grumpy and tired during the entire clinic visit — until Cindy arrived. Whatever magic she used, he left the office smiling. He even handed her a $50 bill to apologize for his grumpiness and to thank her! Of course, she did not accept the money, but graciously hugged him.
Anxiety and fear are very common among patients with cancer. Having to wait for scan results can provoke tremendous anxiety, and Cindy has even helped to expedite the dreaded wait time for some of her patients. A middle-aged man with gastric cancer had a non-urgent scan performed during Thanksgiving week, but the schedule was so booked, it was going to take several hours for the read on the scan. With her kindness and empathy, Cindy explained to the radiology department how highly anxious this patient was, and she managed to get one of the radiologists to read the film within an hour. Fortunately, the scans were good for the patient, who was so grateful and appreciative of Cindy’s thoughtfulness.
These are only a few examples of the daily healing touches that Cindy exemplifies at our oncology clinic. She tries her best to make a positive impact on each and every patient she encounters. She is an outstanding role model, not only for nurses, but for all health care providers. She brings a contagious enthusiasm and energy to tackling the everyday challenges of a nurse, especially those of an oncology nurse. Her patients and colleagues always have wonderful things to say about Cindy — the best nurse I could ask for.