In honor of Kay Tyndall

Kay Tyndall’s sixth grade social studies classes learned about more than current events. They watched their courageous teacher undergo treatment for bladder cancer.

Kay Tyndall image

“They were very interested in what I was going through, “ Kay says.  “We talked about the fact that I was probably going to lose my hair, and after I did, some of them wanted to see my head. I wore a hat and tipped it back some to show them.  I think it was a good learning experience for all involved. They brought me cards and handmade things to make me feel better. They were wonderful.”

Kay’s only symptom was blood in her urine. After a series of tests in her hometown of Rocky Mount, Kay learned that the tumor had invaded her bladder wall. “ At that point, I panicked, “she remembers. “ My doctor told me he couldn’t do any more for you and was going to send me to Chapel Hill. I asked him, ‘Am I going to die from this?’ and he replied, ‘You could if you don’t do something.’”

Kay and her husband prepared to come to UNC Lineberger. The night before their trip to Chapel Hill, their pastor came to visit them. “He told me, ‘You’re in mourning right now. And you need to cry. Get it out.’  He prayed with us and from that point on I experienced peace.”

The Tyndalls met with surgical oncologist Dr. Matt Nielsen and medical oncologist Dr. William Kim. “We could not have had anyone better. Both were very positive, and we left knowing exactly what I needed to do. They told me that research had shown that for my type of cancer, they got better results from doing the chemo first and then having surgery.”

Kay was able to have her chemo in Rocky Mount. “I’m not big on missing school and by having my chemo three days a week every three weeks in Rocky Mount, I didn’t have to miss so many days.” Her chemo regimen was coordinated between UNC and her Rocky Mount oncologist.

Next was her April 11 surgery in Chapel Hill. She left Rocky Mount after a prayer meeting at her church that gave her great comfort.  “My surgery went very well.   I was sore, but up and walking around the next day.  The people- the nurses, the staff, Dr. Nielsen, the residents- everyone- could not have been nicer or more caring. It was like I was their only patient.”

Kay decided to have her bladder removed followed by a procedure called an ileal conduit where a surgeon takes a short section of the small intestine and reconnects the remaining intestine so that it functions normally. One end of the removed short segment of the intestine is placed at the skin surface to create an opening or stoma. Urine is redirected to this opening into a bag worn next to the skin.

In making her decision Kay consulted with other patients. “Joan Kurczak, my nurse navigator, arranged for me to talk with several patients, and that was really helpful. This procedure was the best decision for me, and I’ve not had any issues. I go swimming, do what I want, and will go back to school in the fall for my final year before retiring.”

She hopes to start a bladder cancer support group for patients in the Rocky Mount area.

Of her UNC multidisciplinary care, she says, “Having a team was great. I knew that everyone knew exactly what my case was and that they were in agreement on my treatment plan. I had confidence in what they were telling me because they had discussed it and were giving me the best course of action.”

Kay says that her cancer experience has made her more comfortable with accepting help from others. “This goes back to my faith. I have always been one who did for other people.  If anybody did something for me I always felt like I had to do something for them.  At this point in my life I’ve had so many people doing, even if it’s just sending a card, for me, and I realized that it is a blessing that I am receiving. It has given me an outlook that it is okay to be blessed.  And let the Lord look upon you with blessings.”

Kay and her husband, Bernie, have two sons, Jonathan, and Chris and wife Kelley, and two grandchildren, Darcy and Ayden.