The bond between them is undeniable.
For Kathie Scott and Cathryn Burke, it took only four weeks to form a lifelong friendship. Their common thread: Both women are battling cancer.
While sitting in an office at St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) in Twin Falls, the women shared their stories. During the 30-minute conversation, their emotional connection was evident.
While Scott spoke, Burke listened. When Burke began to cry, Scott reached for her hand. It’s a bond that others may never fully understand, but it’s one they’ve come to cherish.
Neither can remember who started the conversation in the waiting room, leading to the friendship that began while they were receiving radiation treatment.
“I probably started it,” Scott said with a laugh. “We just formed this bond. She has this beautiful sparkle in her eyes and a cool smile.”
And it’s not just these two women sharing the experience; in all, five women have forged a priceless friendship, supporting each other through treatment. A waiting room you might expect to be quiet is instead full of laughter and lively discussion when this crowd gathers. Some have hung out on days when they’re not scheduled for care, just to be with the others.
“We have our time for treatment,” Scott said. “Sometimes, I would come in early just to talk to the ladies, and there have been many times where I am done and I will stay to talk with them.”
That bond has been important for Scott, whose family does not live close to Twin Falls. When she was first diagnosed with cancer in March of 2016, she thought she would be alone in the process.
As she learned, that’s just not the case. She has gained a friendship with a group of women who have supported each other through the “ups and downs.
“That is why the support group we have in those chairs is so important,” Scott said, gesturing around the waiting area. “We have all had our down moments. People seem to sense it and they talk to you. They say ‘Kathie, how are the grandchildren?’ and it brings me back to memories about my grandchildren.”
Burke moved to Twin Falls from Shoshone after being diagnosed so she could be closer for appointments and treatments. She also has brain degeneration.
While each women has her own individual experience with cancer, together they help each other.
“I thought cancer was cancer, and it’s not,” Scott said. “I learned that there is no comparison between hers and mine, but we have camaraderie.”
Burke’s advice for other women diagnosed with breast cancer?
“Buck up. It’s not terrifying.”
On Sept. 2, Scott received her Certificate of Completion from radiation treatment. Her favorite part? The staff signatures at the bottom of the certificate.
“I fell apart,” she said, recalling the moment. “It’s bittersweet. I’ve been waiting for so long for it to be over.”
While holding Burke’s hand, Scott continued, “I will never forget them.
“You’ll always remember them because they’ve inspired you,” she said. “They helped you when you needed it the most. I’m leaving, but someone else will occupy that seat that I had.”
Breast cancer is the second-most-common kind of cancer in women. About one in eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.
The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to focus on the importance of early detection of breast cancer.
Dr. Charles Smith, St. Luke’s MSTI, will be presenting at a special breast cancer awareness seminar Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. at St. Luke’s Magic Valley in the Oak Rooms. RSVP: (208) 814-0094
For more information about St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Twin Falls, please call (208) 814-1600.
St. Luke’s MSTI serves patients at five cancer centers and several rural outreach clinics in Southern and Central Idaho, and is marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month throughout the region.
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.