Why She’s A Nurse: Breast, Colon and Bowel Cancer Attacked Her Family

It hardly seems fair, all the cancer Cat Root saw. How the disease attacked so many of her loved ones. Doctors and nurses, chemo and remission -- and relapse -- became common terms.

Her maternal grandfather fought colon cancer and beat it. Her maternal grandmother got breast cancer and beat it. Her paternal grandfather died of bowel cancer. Her great aunt died of breast cancer.

Root was exposed to the medical world very early. And then, in high school, Root became the patient.

As a teenager, she developed migraines, bad migraines. The last month and a half of her junior year, she attended half days of school. She was in and out of emergency rooms and seeing different doctors.

That’s when she decided. Yes. The medical field was where she wanted to be. Yes. She would be a doctor. She would help those people like her grandparents; she would try to cure them.

Root started as a pre-med major at Franklin College, but as she did internships and specialties with physicians, things just didn’t click. And then at an internship in a clinic, where she was watching and working with nurses and medical assistants, it did click.

“The nurses were what did it for me. It was more hands on and more time with the patients,” says Root, now a nurse in the bone marrow transplant unit at IU Health University Hospital. “The doctors, they were great, but they had to move on and had to see their next patient.”

The nurses got to stay, be there for the patients. After graduating from Franklin with a biology degree, Root earned her bachelor’s of nursing degree from Marian University in May of 2011.

A week later, she had a job offer. In the bone marrow transplant unit at University, she works with a variety of patients -- those with aplastic anemia, leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, germ cell tumors and other conditions.

For Root, it’s a perfect place to be, combining her two interests of oncology and intensive care.

“I’m still taking care of patients who have cancer and going through the battles,” she says. “I also have the ability to critically think.”

More On Cat Root

Personal: Root is 31, married to husband David and the couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Jamie.

Favorite patient story: “There was a woman in her early 20s who came in for transplant. We really bonded while she was here. She came back in a couple of times for readmissions.” The two became close. When Root’s daughter was born, the woman came to visit her at her home. Unfortunately, that woman passed away a year ago. “She was always one of those positive patients no matter how bad it looked. She was a positive force.”

Advice to new nurses: “We have a lot more autonomy and ability to advance our practice than they probably know. Nursing is a vast career opportunity. Once you get involved, you will see all the opportunities out there and ways we can make changes. We’re improving patient outcomes.”

What keeps her going: “We don’t go into nursing because of money or schedules. We go into nursing because of the patients.”

Standout: Root’s success has led her to become involved in many committees that focus on professional practices and employee engagement both at University and at the IU Health system level. “I have a passion. I hear the bedside nurses and I want their voices to be heard up to leadership.”

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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