Thrive by IU Health

March 14, 2024

A big personality receives cancer care close to home

IU Health White Memorial Hospital

A big personality receives cancer care close to home

Kate Thompson is not your ordinary salon owner. Behind her vibrant personality and passion for music and hair lies a story of resilience, community engagement and unwavering spirit.

Originally hailing from Burlington, Ontario, Thompson's journey brought her to Indiana in 2017. She met her husband at a music festival. They have a shared love for the soulful melodies of red dirt country music and host the genre’s artists in their backyard every summer for concerts.

Battling stage three gastric cancer

Thompson's life took an unexpected turn when she started experiencing digestive issues. Despite experiencing symptoms for years, she initially hesitated to seek medical attention, a decision she would later regret.

Eventually, her condition deteriorated to the point where she could no longer ignore the signs; her stomach simply refused to digest food anymore. The food she ate piled up until she could not eat or drink, leading to a trip to IU Health White Memorial Hospital’s Emergency department. Her doctor suggested that she might have gastric cancer and referred her to IU Health Arnett for further testing. It was at Arnett where she received her life-altering diagnosis of stage three gastric cancer.

Finding strength in community

After already receiving compassionate care for many health issues in various departments at White Memorial, having the option of receiving cancer care there, close to home, was a godsend for Thompson.

“Everything I can do here, I would like to do here,” says Thompson. “It’s eight minutes from my house. They have everything here.”

Navigating the challenges of cancer treatment, she found solace and support with team members.

“It’s like I’m coming to see my friends,” says Thompson. “It’s where I feel safe. I trust them with my life—literally.”

She has become the go-to hairdresser for many members of the White Memorial team. Thompson has been known to do haircuts and colorings for off duty nurses after her treatments for the day are over.

She currently receives FLOT chemotherapy treatments, along with potassium and magnesium infusions, and weekly blood tests administered by White Memorial Hospital’s Infusion Services. During a recent appointment, while a nurse draws blood from a port in Thompson’s chest, she discusses scheduling the nurse’s son for a haircut at her salon.

“The bougie suite”

“Those girls, they make it a cheerful place to be,” says Thompson. She describes the Infusion Services department at White Memorial as peaceful with occasional laughter.

Thompson has received an infusion at another hospital system in the past, describing the experience as scary and depressing, with a single room with rows of chairs full of very sick-looking people.

“I don’t feel like I want to be here,” says Thompson, reflecting on her previous infusion experience. “I just felt like, ‘yikes.’”

In contrast, White Memorial provided Thompson with a sense of belonging, with individual suites for each infusion patient, including one extra-large room, which Thompson refers to as “the bougie suite.”

“They work hard to work with my schedule,” says Thompson while discussing how the hospital tries to make appointment times as convenient as possible for patients. Schedulers also go out of their way to keep patients informed about when their upcoming appointments are, printing out an appointment schedule for each patient.

A testimony to compassionate care

Thompson's journey with cancer has been marked by moments of fear, uncertainty and pain. Yet, through it all, she has found strength in the support of her community and the compassionate care of the White Memorial team.

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