Transcending the Chaos of Cancer
May 21, 2018 – Deborah A. Boyle, M.S.N., RN, AOCNS, FAAN, Advanced Oncology Nursing Resources, Huntington Beach, California
Oncology: The Only Choice
May 22, 2018 – Kathy LaTour
Nursing Through the Prism of Childhood
May 27, 2018 – Kathy LaTour
Nurturing Patients and Nurses
June 02, 2018 – Amita Patel, NP-C, AOCNP, Regional Cancer Care Associates
An Oncology Pioneer
June 03, 2018 – Fred Hardwicke, M.D., Childress Regional Medical Center Cancer Clinic, Childress, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock
Camping for Health
June 02, 2018 – Kathy LaTour
Improving Care Against All Odds
June 09, 2018 – Sr. Rosemary Donley, Ph.D., APRN, FAAN, Duquesne University
In the Hands of an Angel
June 10, 2018 – Jitsuda Sitthi-Amorn, M.D., St. Jude Children
The Day That Snow Brought Sunshine
June 17, 2018 – Patricia Jakel, M.N., RN, AOCN, Solid Tumor Program, UCLA, Santa Monica
Monday Morning Musings
June 20, 2018 – Justin Baker, M.D., St. Jude Children
Kathy Youngblood, Private Investigator
June 30, 2018 – Patricia Cathey, M.S.N., RN, NE-BC, St. Jude Children
Something Told Her to Become a Nurse
July 01, 2018 – Marilyn K. Stade
Currently Viewing
This Oncology Nurse Gives Back What She Receives
July 07, 2018 – Debbie Talley
Extraordinary Empathy in the World of Oncology
July 16, 2018 – Andrea Valera, RN, VA Palo Alto Health Care System
How One Oncology Nurse Exhibits the Best of Humanity
July 22, 2018 – Jacquelyn Pryor, Ph.D.
Pairing Diligence With Compassion in Cancer Care
July 21, 2018 – Margot Goodman
A Shining Star in Oncology Nursing
July 22, 2018 – Charles Turano
Compassion and Kind Ways in Oncology Nursing
July 26, 2018 – Edith Holder
Giving Is in Her DNA
July 29, 2018 – Deborah Dion
By My Side Through Cancer Treatments
July 27, 2018 – Malinda Blackshaw, RN
The Oncology Nurse Who Radiates Pink
July 28, 2018 – Eleanor K. Waldrup
Always a Step Ahead as an Oncology Nurse
August 04, 2018 – James G. Coe, Ph.D.
This Oncology Nurse Is Not Just Any Superhero
August 05, 2018 – Keitha V. Johnson
When Compassionate Cancer Care Meets Imagination
August 11, 2018 – Daniela Maniscalchi
An Anchor in a Time of Tumult
August 12, 2018 – Lillian Arleque, Ed.D.
From Devastation to Inspiration
August 18, 2018 – Wendy Tucker
Master of the Medical Matrix
August 19, 2018 – Linda McCarthy

This Oncology Nurse Gives Back What She Receives

BY Debbie Talley
PUBLISHED July 07, 2018
From left: Kaitlyn Whitewater, B.S.N. RN, and Debbie Talley
From left: Kaitlyn Whitewater, B.S.N. RN, and Debbie Talley - PHOTOS BY ERIN GOODRICH
I know an extraordinary oncology nurse. I am not a current or former patient, or a peer. I am her former caregiver and her mother.

My daughter, Kaitlyn Whitewater, was just beginning her first semester of college when she was diagnosed with acute biphenotypic leukemia. She was suffering from a rare case of both acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia. She was immediately sent to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Within a week of diagnosis, she was in the intensive care unit, comatose and with her liver failing. The doctors could not make us any promises of her survival. But thanks to their knowledge and medical expertise — and a lot of prayer — she regained consciousness and her liver began to heal. Kaitlyn underwent extensive chemotherapy and a subsequent matched, unrelated-donor allogeneic stem cell transplant. We spent 10 months in Houston, approximately seven of them in the hospital. There were many nurses, doctors, technicians, et cetera — too many to count — who helped ensure Kaitlyn was comfortable and would continue to live.

During Kaitlyn’s hospital stay at MD Anderson and in Houston, she continued her studies online at Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma. Prior to her diagnosis, she had already decided on a nursing career. But now she knew the area in which she wanted to work: She wanted to become an oncology nurse.

Finally, we returned to Tulsa to a new “normal.” It was necessary for Kaitlyn to be seen by her oncology team in Tulsa every day for blood work and labs. During one of her many visits to Saint Francis Hospital’s Oncology Unit, a conversation with the nurse manager led to Kaitlyn becoming a nurse technician on 7 West, the oncology unit. With determination, she earned her certified nursing assistant credential and started working as a nurse tech. She also attended Tulsa Community College as a full-time student.

After earning her associate degree in science at Tulsa Community College, she applied and was accepted to the nursing program at the University of Tulsa. This is by far one of the hardest programs to be accepted into and attend, but she was determined. During her studies at both the community college and the university, she experienced memory and concentration problems, side effects attributed to the chemotherapy. But she was bent on earning her bachelor of science in nursing, and on May 6, 2017, she walked across the stage and received her degree.

By that time, she had been a nurse tech for five years — she had continued working in the oncology unit while going to school. After interviewing with Saint Francis Hospital for a nursing position and passing the National Council Licensure Examination, she became a clinical nurse 1.

Kaitlyn Whitewater is now a clinical nurse 1 in Saint Francis Hospital’s Oncology Unit. She works alongside many of the nurses that helped with her care when she was an oncology patient. She has come full circle.

When I attend events for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with Kaitlyn, many of her former and current patients introduce themselves to me. I have the pleasure of hearing about how much Kaitlyn, as a registered nurse — and earlier, as a nurse tech — helped them during their stays in the hospital. They are so surprised to hear she is a cancer survivor — that at one time she didn’t want to eat or get out of bed, either, and was unsure of her future. But here she is, not only surviving but also living.

She isn’t the type of person to come out and tell everyone her story of treatment and survival — it’s not about her. She will share her story only if she feels it will help the patient. Many of the nurses have asked Kaitlyn to talk with their patients, as well, about her experiences with cancer, the disease and its treatment.

One thing Kaitlyn can give the patients and their families is hope. Sometimes it’s just by listening to their concerns. But once she shares her own experiences, they know she understands some of what they might be going through, physically and mentally. It helps to know they’re not alone in their cancer journeys.

Kaitlyn is a caring, compassionate, knowledgeable oncology nurse who just so happens to also be a cancer survivor. She is an extraordinary healer.
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