By Katie Nemeth
I have always known that I worked in a special place, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much. My name is Katie Nemeth and I am a registered nurse in the Family Birthing Center at Midstate Medical Center. I have worked for the hospital since 2009, but joined the team in the “FBC” in 2018. It is a privilege to be a member of this unit, helping bring new life into the world.
This past April, I was diagnosed with very aggressive Triple Positive Breast Cancer after a chance discovery of a lump. Being only 38 years old, I had not yet received routine mammography and was blindsided by this finding. I was terrified of losing my life and leaving my husband and children without a wife and mother. I did not know how I was going to get through this and I felt lost.
From the moment I was diagnosed, I was forced to take a leave of absence from my staff nurse position that I loved and still do not know when I will be able to return. My treatment plan included almost 5 months of intense chemotherapy, a year's worth of immunotherapy infusions, a double mastectomy surgery with reconstruction and two additional surgeries to complete reconstruction and reduce my risk of recurrence.
After losing all of my hair and my sense of self, I admit that I am not always sure how I am going to get back to being me. It truly has been a very long and difficult journey.
There have been many people who have supported me and my family during the last 8 months. I knew my husband, Jeffrey, my parents, Michael and Andrea Simon, and my sister, Vanessa Mather, would be there to support me from the get go, but I did not know how many people would truly rush to my aid.
As lifelong Wallingford residents, our community has organized collections, fundraisers and meal trains for us. But of special note are my wonderful coworkers, who really have become my “family.” Almost immediately, the unit began a collection for me, while masses of cards began rolling in. Many of my coworkers sent gifts, delivered gift baskets, called, visited, and offered to help in any way they could.
Many of them began praying for me daily. They assisted in fundraising for our family by ordering and wearing T-shirts calling themselves “Katie’s Crusaders.” Each of them wears a pink ribbon on their ID badge in solidarity and support of me and my battle. Their support has continued to help me get through one of the most difficult times in my life. They made me feel loved and cared for in a time when I felt the ground shake beneath me and uncertainty knocking at my door. Anytime I felt I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, I knew I could call upon any one of them to help me find my way. I was so grateful to them all.
All of this support has been monumental when you consider how busy everyone’s lives are and how stressful our jobs as nurses have been during this COVID-19 pandemic. So when the unit gathered this month and shared with me that they had chosen me for this year's “Adopt-A-Family” for Christmas, I was truly shocked.
Every year, the unit selects a family in need to provide a special Christmas “gift” to. When they announced that it was me that they had selected and offered that it was the obvious choice, I wept.
Here my coworkers were, giving of themselves over and over, rushing to help me once again. In addition to taking up a collection, they bought and decorated a small Christmas tree for our family. On each ornament were words like faith, hope, love, and peace, and the names of each person who donated were written on the back. It was a gift of “Healing and Hope.”
This tree sits on my front porch as a constant reminder of just how many people love and care for me. They were not helping me because they felt they had to, they were helping me because they wanted to, and as a family, it was easy to do.
I cannot begin to express adequately how grateful we are to the staff of The Family Birthing Center. I only wish they could be recognized for their continued service to our patients, to others in need and to me, one of their own. Now that I am in cancer remission, I look forward to returning to work and am so proud to be a staff nurse on this team, but even more honored to be a part of this family.
Wallingford resident Katie Nemeth, a 2001 graduate of Sheehan High School, is a registered nurse at MidState Medical Center.