A Lifetime of Impact for Patients With Cancer

An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring KAREN KINAHAN, D.N.P., APN, FNP-BC
Karen Kinahan, D.N.P., APN, FNP-BC, and Andy Seibert - 
Karen Kinahan, D.N.P., APN, FNP-BC, and Andy Seibert - PHOTOS BY ANNIE HILL
ON A COLD JANUARY day in 1987, only one week after completing her own radiation treatment for breast cancer, my mom went to change my diaper and knew that something was wrong. After several appointments in the following weeks, I was diagnosed at 15 months old with rhabdomyosarcoma of the bladder, which at the time was a very rare form of cancer. Shortly after my diagnosis, I began treatment at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Being so young at the outset of my diagnosis, I obviously have very little firsthand recollection of the journey and numerous challenges that my family and I went through on the path to being cancer-free. However, through the years, as my parents have shared stories and details of the agony, trauma and ultimately the joy that were consequences of my diagnosis, one thing that constantly stands out is how blessed I was to have the support and care of many phenomenal doctors and nurses. During the three years of my treatment and the countless follow-up visits over the past 28 years, one person in particular has been a special and constant force of love, support and reassurance for my family.

In 1987, Karen Kinahan was a young nurse who had recently graduated from Valparaiso University. My mom worked at the university and formed an instant connection with Karen. Something that was immediately evident to my family was that Karen was an exceptional nurse who loved children genuinely, and went above and beyond to be a source of encouragement in the midst of challenging treatment. Karen always took the time to support not only the patient but also the entire family who were impacted by the disease. Her patience, empathy and willingness to listen and provide a wealth of knowledge and guidance were invaluable for my family.

Following the three years of intense treatment, my cancer was gone and I have been cancerfree for the past 27 years. Thanks to the care of Karen and the world-class medical professionals at Children’s Memorial Hospital, I have had the opportunity to grow up a happy and healthy child, teenager and adult. Throughout my life, Karen has remained a constant source of support. In the years immediately after my treatment, Karen worked with the long-term clinic at Children’s, and then years later moved to Northwestern Hospital to work with the adult STAR clinic. I was thrilled, when I transitioned my care after I graduated from college to Northwestern from Children’s, that my favorite nurse was there to continue to support me and my family.

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