Volume 43 | Number 1 | Fall 2012

Photo submitted by the Brussé family

Kate's Journey: From Journalist to Nurse

Fall 2012 Issue | By Chris Gabettas

When Kate Brussé walked across the stage at ISU-Meridian's commencement last May, few in the audience knew what had inspired this 39-year-old journalist to trade pen and notebook for a stethoscope.

Born in Spokane, Wash., Brussé spent the first seven years of her life in the tiny Idaho mining town of Osburn. She later moved to the Southeast Idaho community of Preston, graduated high school and studied mass communication at Boise State University.

Brussé worked in public relations and journalism before taking a reporting job at the Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise where she loved covering stories that made a difference in the community.

"I've always enjoyed helping people," she said.

In 2007, Brussé and her husband, Chad, received some life-changing news of their own. Kate was pregnant with triplets. The Brussés were thrilled at the prospect of becoming new parents.

"She modeled the concepts I love about nursing—autonomy and confidence in advocating for the patient, impeccable ethics and professionalism, holism, and compassion. She empowered me to heal in the face of illness."

- Kate Brussé

While on bed rest at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center, Brussé discovered a two-centimeter lump in her left breast. She consulted two doctors, one of whom ordered an ultrasound. Both assured her the lump was nothing to worry about, just her body adjusting to pregnancy.

Another month passed, and the lump seemed to be getting bigger. Concerned, Brussé consulted a third doctor who insisted the lump would resolve itself when she began to breastfeed.

Brussé, who'd already lost her mother and grandmother to ovarian cancer and an aunt to breast cancer, wasn't satisfied with that answer. She consulted a fourth doctor, who ordered a biopsy.

"I just remember thinking 'it's not going to be cancer.' I was trying to be positive," Brussé recalled. Despite her family history, she hoped her persistence with a healthy diet, exercise and stress management would shield her from the disease.

On a Tuesday morning 33 weeks into her pregnancy, Brussé's surgeon walked into her hospital room. "We've got a carcinoma. You need to get your family together," he told her.

"I kept thinking this is so unfair. I'd done everything right during my pregnancy. I felt like 'why me?' " Brussé said. "One of my first thoughts that morning was wondering if I would still be around to see my children start kindergarten."

Aug. 25, 2007, Brussé gave birth to two girls, Claret and Jumelle, and a boy, Treysen. The girls each weighed 2 1/2 pounds. Treysen tipped the scales at 4 pounds, 3 ounces. "We were thrilled. We knew they were going to make it," she said.

But what about Brussé's prognosis?

Ten days after giving birth, Brussé underwent surgery to remove her left breast, and doctors determined the cancer was Stage 1 —meaning the tumor hadn't entered the lymph nodes. Two and a half months later, she began 12 weeks of chemotherapy, followed by surgery to remove her right breast and ovaries.

As the triplets approached their first birthday, Brussé started to have second thoughts about returning to the journalism career she loved. She couldn't stop thinking about the nurses who'd cared for her and the triplets that year—especially St. Luke's lactation consultant Jan Goodner, who died of breast cancer in September 2008.

ISU President Arthur C. Vailas hands Kate Brussé her diploma at ISU-Meridian Commencement on May 7, 2011.

Photo by Chris Gabettas

"She modeled the concepts I love about nursing—autonomy and confidence in advocating for the patient, impeccable ethics, professionalism and compassion. She empowered me to heal in the face of illness," said Brussé.

Inspired and touched by Goodner, Brussé wanted to become a nurse but worried about the stress a career change would place on her young family. However, her husband encouraged her to follow her dream.

Brussé spent the next couple of years completing science classes required for ISU-Meridian's accelerated nursing program—which awards the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 16 months—and preparing for the national assessment test required to enter the program.

On the morning Brussé was to take the assessment test, she decided to ride her bicycle to the Meridian campus. As she opened the garage door to retrieve the bike, a hummingbird flew in—a sign, Brussé thought, that Goodner was with her in spirit.

Brussé pedaled to campus, took the exam and scored in the top 1 percent nationally. January 2011, she began her nursing studies in the rigorous accelerated program, the only one of its kind in Idaho.

"The experience was incredible. Everything I learned in class I could relate to," she said.

Kate and family camping near Redfish Lake.

Photo submitted by the Brussé family

Brussé recently began a job as a registered nurse in the orthopedic and neuroscience unit at St. Luke's Medical Center in Boise. She wants to help patients make health decisions that work for them.

Brussé's journey has taught her that disease need not limit your dreams or define your life.

"In life and as a nurse, I believe you can turn the worst thing that ever happened to you into the best thing that ever happened to you," she said.