Infusion nurse uses mom’s cancer journey as motivation in her nursing career

Kallie McDonald says following her heart and passion put her in a position to help women suffering from the same illness as her mom.
Written by: Katherine Kirk
Media contact: Brianna Hoge

Stream KMKallie McDonald says following her heart and passion put her in a position to help women suffering from the same illness as her mom.
Photography: Jennifer Alsabrook-Turner
While most 10-year-olds are focused on sports, school and socializing with friends, Kallie McDonald was by her mother’s side, holding her hand in support during a challenging health journey.

While her mom was receiving treatments for ovarian cancer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she continuously praised her gynecologic oncology and infusion nurses, which inspired McDonald to pursue a career in nursing.  

“I remember my mom speaking about her chemo nurses and how they made her feel safe, comfortable and loved,” McDonald said. “They fought for her, and she felt taken care of.”  

Since becoming a registered nurse in 2018, she has been serving the patients at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, where she provides expert-coordinated care plans for patients receiving infusion therapy for gynecologic cancers. Her role at the center provides her the opportunity to help women who have been diagnosed with the same disease as her mom.

“Doors were opening, and I just kept following my heart,” McDonald said. “Being able to help women just like my mom is a full-circle moment. I knew my purpose was to give these women the treatment and care my mom was given.”

Sadly, her mom passed away after a two-and-a-half-year battle. McDonald’s experience caring for her mom drives her to create an environment where her patients can feel safe and comfortable, even during the most challenging days of their lives.

1206809630264095.qOQA9Z7m5Sc30owIw50F height640Tracey wearing the shirt she had made for her nurse, Kallie. McDonald’s efforts can be felt by many patients in the UAB Comprehensive Ovarian Cancer Program, especially by her patient Tracey O’Dell.   

“Kallie is not only an amazing nurse but an amazing person,” O’Dell said. “She’s so passionate about what she does. As a cancer patient, what I go through is unmatched; but Kallie makes me feel like a little kid wrapped up in my mother’s loving arms.”

To further show her love and appreciation for McDonald, O’Dell had a custom shirt made and surprised her in the clinic one day.

“She came to an appointment and had my face on her shirt,” McDonald said. “It was a picture of the two of us, and below it said, ‘I love my chemo nurse.’ Tracey, who is now battling cancer for a second time, is really special to me because she is around the same age my mom was when she was diagnosed.” 

Every day, McDonald goes to work and is surrounded by patients who are a constant reminder of her mom. While her profession is often filled with challenging emotions, she draws strength from these encounters, viewing them as a means to connect with her purpose and her “why” as a nurse.

“Some days are harder than others, and remembering why I wanted to become a nurse helps me stay motivated and focused,” McDonald said. “I strive to honor my mom in my work because I feel the closest to her when I’m with my patients.” 

McDonald’s journey, from the tender moments spent by her mom’s side during her health battle to her current role as a compassionate infusion nurse at UAB, shows her influence of love, empathy and personal dedication to the patients she serves. McDonald has found her calling in providing comfort and support to patients facing similar challenges. She not only honors her mother’s memory, but also leaves a mark on the lives of those in her care.