Volunteer turns to hugs, hope and prayers to brighten days

Kathy Rosenbarger survived breast cancer and now she regularly volunteers at Wesley Merit...
Kathy Rosenbarger survived breast cancer and now she regularly volunteers at Wesley Merit Health to help others. (Photo source: WDAM)
Published: Feb. 6, 2018 at 11:24 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 11:27 AM CST
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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Wesley Merit Health has volunteers on their campus constantly, some help daily, while others simply pitching in when they can.

Kathy Rosenbarger is one of those volunteers, and you'll always see her with a smile. A routine doctor visit in 2014 that ended with bad news still wasn't enough to keep her from giving back to anyone and everyone she can.

"January 2014, I had a yearly mammogram and thought nothing of it because I did it every year," Rosenbarger said. "On January 16, I was called and asked to come back in and have mammogram, a second one done, which I immediately that afternoon went in and had done."

She said that was followed up with an ultrasound, and then she was on her way.

"By the time I left the office and going home, my phone was ringing and it was my gynecologist calling to say I needed to schedule an appointment with the surgeon as soon as possible," said Rosenbarger.

She said there were a few other tests that were done, and roughly a week later, she got her results.

"On my birthday it was confirmed that I had breast cancer," Rosenbarger said. "It's always a shock you hear about it, but it's still shock. I didn't cry, I just turned to the doctor in after looking at my husband and said get it out."

Rosenbarger returned to the doctor on February 4 and had a bilateral mastectomy, a radical on the left and a simple on the right.

Doctors also removed 16 lymph nodes from her left side.

"My breast cancer was not one that is common, mine was very deep cancer," said Rosenbarger. "Fortunately, all my lymph nodes were clear, it's just a blessing from God."

After her surgery, another visit to her doctors.

"After looking at all the results, my surgeon, my plastic surgeon, both said you have no cancer, we've gotten it all, so I thought that was the end of it.... Silly me," she said. "He had said that my testing came back it was not genetic hereditary, it was a gene that is a reoccurring gene, and when it comes back, if it comes back, it will go one of four places, that's either your brain, your lungs, your liver or your pancreas, and at that time those were four totally inoperable cancers."

They informed her that multiple rounds of chemotherapy could lower her chances to around 10 percent of the cancer returning.

"It was the hardest and the worst thing I have ever had in my life. I believe god gave me that for a reason, and he needed me to do this," said Rosenbarger.

She made it through six rounds of chemo, which she said was a challenge she took one at a time. Rosenbarger also developed lymphoedema in her left arm after a fall, and she deals with that injury daily.

Now, in 2018, another doctor visit…

"My blood work this time was the best it's ever been, and I am still cancer free, I'm a survivor," said Rosenbarger. "It's all God's plan, that I've survived, he has things for me to do."

Those things in her mind are spreading a smile, some joy and a few hugs.

"I just think that if you can give somebody a smile and a hug, their days going to be a little better too," said Rosenbarger. "But if you can give them a hug, or just say good morning, I hope your day is better, that makes a big difference in people's lives."

She said Wesley Merit Health doesn't even feel like a hospital to her.

"Wesley is a caring hospital, I sometimes have a hard time seeing it as a hospital, in that, everybody cares," said Rosenbarger.

So, going on for nine years with her volunteer work, her smile can still be seen in the hallways of the hospital.

"God has been good to me, he's been extremely good to me and he's not finished," she said. "His plan is still going, so whatever I can do or be, I try to be the best I can be," said Rosenbarger. "I felt like I was able to help people face what they were facing. I just try to always have a smile and listen."

One thing she has learned is that most people just want someone to listen, someone to hear what they are going through and to be a friend.

"Most of the time people that are facing a situation, they just want to tell somebody and I felt like I could do that," said Rosenbarger. "It's good for me, I don't know if it helps anybody else but, my outlook is always much better."

"I know that the trials I faced are minor, there are so many people that have things so much worse than what I do," Rosenbarger said.

She also spends some of her volunteer time writing cards to patients, just as a way to show someone cares, being as optimistic as she can.

"I'm an optimistic person," she said. "My glass is always half full, and if it's not, then I'll probably know that it's my time."

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