An excerpt from “Class Act” in Volume 2 Issue 3 of Renown Journey. Written by Mikalee Byerman.
IF YOU’RE IN MISS STANGLAND’S FIFTH-GRADE CLASS at Sepulveda Elementary School in Spanish Springs, pressure can be defined in three words: Monday morning multiplication.
But Mrs. Stangland had a plan to help her class beat the dreaded drills: “I figured, I’d give them incentive,” she recalled. “If they hit their goal as a class, I’d let them see my bald head.”
Her head, bald from chemotherapy after her third bout with cancer, was a point of fascination for her class of 30.
“And by God, they did hit that goal,” she laughed. “So there they were, pounding on their desks, chanting, ‘Take it off! Take it off!’”
She says she remembers looking them firmly in the eye, dramatically reaching up and removing her wig.
“Poof, just like that,” she said. “You could’ve heard a pin drop. They were stunned. But we all got a good laugh out of it.”
Such casual, comedic demeanor seems natural coming from the 54-year-old Sparks resident, who is sitting in an inpatient room at Renown Regional Medical Center, wearing a pink “I ♥ NY” shirt, undergoing intravenous pre-hydration in advance of a 12-hour intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy procedure to treat her fourth cancer diagnosis in 16 years.
“She should absolutely be the poster child for how to live with cancer,” Peter Lim, MD, FACOG said. “She’s incredible. In fact, my concern was always that she was doing too much — she’s out there skiing, traveling, yet she’s living with a serious illness. But that’s the difference with Katy — she’s living with the illness. She doesn’t let it interrupt her life.”
Jacki Bailey, RN, Stangland’s primary care nurse, attributes this personal approach to nursing to Renown’s leadership team, which she calls less a team and more a family.
“We bring the entire care team together for every patient,” she said. “We meet twice a week, all of us together — the case manager, the social worker, the dietician, the clinical nurse specialist and sometimes the physical therapist.
We discuss the patient from head to toe, create a plan for discharge, assess patient needs when they go home — we even talk about how the patient’s family is doing.”
When Stangland’s family is discussed, that includes the 30 10- to 11-year-olds who have shared the journey with her, start to finish.
“I’m all about mind over matter, and this is important for the kids to see,” Stangland said. “Every child knows or will know someone with cancer. This is not the end of the world, and they get to learn that by watching.”
“I am so fortunate,” she continued. “I feel 100 percent; I’m not missing out on work or life. I have complete faith in this doctor, these nurses, this hospital. This is not scary, because I know I’m in the best hands possible.”
“Katy treats chemo like an item she’s checking off a grocery list,” her primary care nurse, Jacki Bailey, said. “There are days I wish I could pour a little Katy Stangland into me. She’s amazing.”
Stangland has since finished chemotherapy. She returned to Sepulveda Elementary, returned to her 30 children, to tell her story. “I’m not a cancer patient,” she says. “If you asked me to describe myself, that’s not even in the top 20. I’m a teacher; a world traveler; a lover of learning; an adventurer.”
And those watching would add one descriptor to the list: an inspiration.
Read other patients stories from Renown Journey.
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