A voice of help and comfort: The woman behind the phones of Spectrum Health

Posted at 10:49 PM, Mar 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-17 22:49:28-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich-- Chances are, if you've ever called Spectrum Health to make an appointment or have had to call for assistance in the parking garage, you've heard Kathy Shoemaker's voice.

Kathy has been an Administrative Assistant with Spectrum Health for nearly 30 years, but her voice work started about 20 years ago.

“We were doing after-hours nurse triage for doctors' offices and for every doctor's office there had to be a greeting," said Kathy.

From there, more people started taking notice and began asking Kathy to record messages for their offices as well.  And as Spectrum Health continued to grow, so did the need for her voice.

“They wanted to make all of the voice greetings the same, so I was asked if I would do all of those.”

Kathy says it took her about a month to finish all of the recordings, and smiled in front of the mirror while doing it, using what she calls her "nice voice".

“Typically you’re not calling into a hospital because of a happy thing," said Kathy.

Unfortunately, Kathy has found that to be true in her own life as well. She's had bilateral breast cancer and positive lymph nodes in both axillaries. After a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation in 2012, she was clear for five years, but then, the disease returned.

"In November of 2017, I discovered a mass in my right upper-abdomen, and it was around my colon. It was diagnosed as breast cancer, so I refer to it as my 'third boob'," Kathy told FOX 17.

She later learned the cancer had spread to her bones and other parts of her body, with no way to cure it.

It's a diagnosis that would understandably leave anyone feeling defeated, but not Kathy.

“I could say ‘why me? I’m 57 years old, why did you do this to me' why not me?”

It's her positive outlook that's helped Kathy take two trips that doctors didn't think she'd be able to on go, including one to Costa Rica this past February. She also has big plans to celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary in July.

“So my plan is that I’ll make it that long. I don’t know what God’s plan is, but my plan is, I’ll make it.”

Kathy says the biggest thing cancer has taught her, is to 'live intentionally' and calls her current situation a win-win.

“The longer I have here with time spent with my family and friends, I win. Whenever I die and Jesus calls me home, I win even bigger.”

Kathy is currently going to chemo treatment every three weeks and is hopeful for a new targeted therapy for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer that was recently approved by the FDA.

While she tells FOX 17 she would love to do more voice work for Spectrum Health, she graciously says 'perhaps it's a new season for a new voice.'