Annette’s Story: MSK Nurse, Patient, Donor

Twenty-year-old Annette Farnan graduated from nursing school on September 9, 1961. At 8:00 am on Monday, September 11, she began her life as a nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering. It was a lifelong love affair.

Monthly donor story

After her start in Pediatrics, Annette was invited to transfer to the Head and Neck Service, a time that she cherishes. Most of her patients had endured grueling surgeries to cure or control their cancer. She had enormous admiration and respect for their grace and courage in the face of tremendous odds, she says. “I loved them.”
In 1966, Annette was asked if she would like to take the position of evening charge nurse in the recovery room. She accepted the offer and spent the next six years on the unit, an experience she also treasures. “You had to be very quick on your feet,” she recalls — and she means that in more ways than one. This was a time before Memorial Hospital had an intensive care unit (ICU); the other side of the recovery room housed the ICU patients. In addition, most of the sophisticated technologies available today to assist nurses in monitoring their patients’ conditions were still to be invented.
In the mid-1960s, MSK recovery room nurses had 18 patients to care for and had to take their vital signs every 15 minutes. “You had to be aware of absolutely everything that was going on with each one of your patients,” says Annette. “You had to be acutely observant for any signs that someone might be getting into trouble. Our job was to be sure that the patient was stable enough to be moved back to their hospital room. It was exciting and very rewarding work.”

Transitioning to Outpatient Care — and a Cancer Diagnosis

During this time, Annette married. In 1971 she gave birth to a son and in 1973 had a daughter. As her children were growing up she continued working at MSK but on a per diem basis, two to three days a week. In 1989, she returned full-time. Over the years, she assisted pulmonologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, and renal specialists in a wide range of outpatient procedures.
Then, in 1999, Annette received a diagnosis of breast cancer. However, after successful surgery, she continued nursing part-time while receiving chemotherapy treatments.
At last, on December 31, 2010, Annette retired. It has been a happy and active time. A lover of travel, she’s been to France, Italy,  the Dominican Republic, Alaska — and for her birthday always takes a one-week trip to Mexico, one of her favorite countries.
She also makes it a point to stay in touch with MSK. She attends the annual 20 Year Club Dinner, which recognizes MSK employees who have worked at the institution for 20 or more years, and she has regular dinners with her fellow nurses.

Giving Back

“I’m tremendously fond of and attached to Memorial Sloan Kettering — both the people who work there and the extraordinary work that is being done there,” Annette says. Four years ago she decided to become a Friends of MSK monthly donor.
“It was a no-brainer,” she explains. “Not only was I an MSK patient but both my parents were treated at MSK. And I had an amazing and fulfilling career there. I wouldn’t have worked anywhere else. It was time for me to give back to an institution that gave so much to me in so many ways.”
Becoming a Friend of MSK through our monthly pledge program is a convenient and effective way to help advance knowledge and the treatment of cancer. Monthly giving by generous supporters like Annette provides MSK with two significant advantages: We know in advance the amount of income available to fund research and clinical trials, and our fundraising expenses are significantly lower because of automatic billing to a donor’s credit card or bank account, allowing gifts to go to work rapidly to save lives.