Thursday, October 11, 2012

One Less Women of Teal - Rita Kay

When I was in college  in the early '70's I met this really awesome woman. She was the Rutgers assistant athletic director. This was the time when the first few classes of  women were first accepted into Rutgers College. I was affiliated with Rutgers College while I studied at The College of Engineering ( as it was called then). I was also on the men's lightweight crew team as a coxswain. Ms Thomas felt strongly that the women should have their own team and fought hard to establish a women's team and it happened a few years later. Although I was invited to be part of the newly established women's program I continued with the men's team all four years.   I graduated and Ms Thomas  stayed on at Rutgers . She played a crucial role in developing  some of the best women's athletic programs in the country at Rutgers - from crew to golf to volleyball to basketball, soccer and field hockey.

Then about five years ago at a Gynecologic Cancer Support Group meeting at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey there she was,  Ms Rita Kay Thomas. But we were in a different fight this time.  We were fighting late stage Ovarian Cancer together. Rita Kay and I were in the same selenium clinical trial so we would compare notes about side effects, low platelets etc and laugh about all those darn Pk blood draws. She wore her signature straw cowboy hat to meetings. Sometimes she would add a long green wig or silly glasses with a big nose and bushy eyebrows.  She was always ready to use humor to help the other women overcome their nervousness and anxiety.

We both entered remission from the ovarian cancer.  But a little while later she faced another challenge, a breast cancer diagnosis.  She shared with the group the decisions that she faced about surgery and radiation .  We listened, prayed and  supported her choices.

When I recurred in 2008 and had surgery on my liver and spleen , she and her partner visited me in the hospital. What did we talk about? Rutgers sports of course and RU football in particular. I was sad I would miss going to a bowl game that year . She told me not to worry because there would be more Bowls to attend in the future. I wasn't feeling too sure of that at the time but Rita Kay was sure.

In 2009 Rita Kay and I were asked to honor our gyn-onc at the CINJ Gala. We both jumped at the opportunity and had a fun time.

In 2011 the crew teams at Rutgers honored Rita Kay by christening a shell in her name. So if you ever see the Rutgers crews rowing on the Raritan look for the shell named the Rita Kay.  

I knew when  Rita Kay was not able to attend the first  Rutgers Home Football Game this year that she was not feeling well. I spoke to her on the phone the next day. I did not want to give up hope that a new drug or procedure or clinical trial might be in the wings waiting to perform its magic on Rita Kay. Just as she had performed magic for so many women athletes at Rutgers. Sadly that was not to be and Rita Kay passed yesterday morning.

I was blessed to have had Rita Kay in my life.  I will miss her yellow crocks, her great sense of humor,  her straw cowboy hat and her love of a good beer. But especially I will miss my half-time walks at RU homes games from 224  down to section 125 to say hello.


Every Day is a Blessing!

1 comment:

Scoobydoobeach said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Dee. Thinking of you!
hugs, Maggie