How My Cancer Nurse Made Each and Every Day Count

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 9, Volume 9, Issue 1

An Extraordinary Healers essay honoring Kathryn “Kitty” Vance, RN, BSN [LCI Radiation Therapy in Pineville, North Carolina]

Kathryn “Kitty” Vance, RN, BSN (left) with Kellianne M. Nagy - PHOTO BY NANINE HARTZENBUSCH

It all started as a pain in the ass. My family and I laughed that I was “a pain in the ass.” But after visiting three doctors including a surgeon, all within seven short days, I heard words that I never thought I would hear and that would change my world: “You have cancer of the anus.”

All of a sudden you have a million thoughts racing through your head. “What does this mean? What is going to happen to me? What are my next steps? How curable is this?” The questions just kept popping into my head.

The “game plan” was laid out for me, and then I met Kathryn “Kitty” Vance. It was the beginning of a journey whose outcome was unknown to me. But I did know after our first 10 minutes together that Kitty would be my “go-to person,” and that she would be the one to tell me exactly what to expect, when to expect it and what would be coming next. Yes, a nurse—patient relationship had formed — but also a true friendship with someone who cared about me beyond being just a patient.

I walked out of our first meeting with a sense of comfort and peace that I did not have when I walked in. When I told a few people at church what was going on, they told me that Kitty and her team were the best in Charlotte. Some of them had firsthand experience working with Kitty and her team — that made me feel more comfort knowing that I was truly in good hands.

What I learned very quickly was that Kitty was a genuine, kind, caring, understanding, encouraging and honest person. She is someone you can trust right at the get-go. She prepared me daily, weekly and monthly as I embarked on my journey.

For six weeks, I saw Kitty every day. Every day, she was there for me, greeting me with a smile and hug if I needed it. And let me tell you, she knew exactly when I needed those hugs! She spent as much time as necessary discussing how I felt, any concerns I had and what I should expect next. Our patient—nurse relationship grew into more of a sisterly relationship. I could tell her every little thing that was going on inside my body, and ask her questions only females are comfortable asking other females. When you have cancer of the anus, your radiation affects more than just that one area. It also affects all of your female parts in that area.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, Kitty answered question after question. I can’t tell you how helpful it was that she prepared me for what would be next. When you are ready for something, it helps to ease some of the pain and take away some of the fear of the unknown. Many times, it is the unknown that can cause you extra stress and anxiety. Because of Kitty and all of her insight and encouragement, I was able to stay positive through the whole process. I was able to tell my family when I might “bottom out” and when they should plan on coming down to stay with me.

Kitty was there for me when I bottomed out, encouraging me to stay the course, lifting me back up and helping me to get through the darkest days of this journey. She kept me on track, she kept me focused, she kept me positive and she kept me fighting!

Kitty has been an oncology nurse for 25 years, her whole nursing career. During her 25 years, she spent 10 years volunteering at a baby orphanage in Romania. While she was living in Romania, she adopted her daughter. Kitty is one special lady.

Kitty is a nurse who went above and beyond the call of duty to make my journey the best it could be. She helped and guided me, as she has done for so many others that have been to radiation therapy at CMC Pineville. You don’t find many like her!

I am truly blessed and grateful to have had Kitty as my nurse, my guiding light, my angel and now my friend. It was a journey I never expected, but had I not experienced it I would never have met this beautiful, loving, caring, compassionate and kind woman. Proof that there is a silver lining to getting cancer: You get to have Kitty as your nurse.