Jenni Tobias’ emotional pain from her mother’s passing July 8 is being eased a bit by a nursing scholarship she wants to make a reality.

Kathy Tobias was an oncology nurse at the Arizona Cancer Center’s Fasseas Cancer Clinic, known as UMC North. 

Unlike other oncology nurses, she also was an oncology patient.

Knowing too well the fear and feelings of cancer patients, Kathy Tobias was able to listen, comfort and understand patients’ questions and concerns because she was walking the same walk.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2000, she continued working until May 2009.

“My mom worked through the majority of treatments; she didn’t want to quit,” Jenni Tobias said. “She’d have chemo during lunch, then go back and work with patients.”

Impressed by her mother’s ability and determination to work with cancer patients while going through treatment, Jenni Tobias decided to study nursing too — specifically oncology nursing. And like her mother, she is studying at Pima Community College where her mom said she received a top-level, hands-on education.

Tobias wants to memorialize her mother in a way that will help others and keep her name alive. She has raised $2,000 of the $10,000 she needs for Pima Community College to make the scholarship an endowment.

“I want to honor her in a way that has her name on it and is attached to nursing — a scholarship to one nursing student where it will really make a difference,” she said.

Kathy Tobias, who lived in Green Valley worked with cancer patients while facing her own treatments and never complained, a colleague said.

“She never complained,” said Laura Eparvier, a psychiatric researcher at the Arizona Cancer Center. “She was extremely inspirational to her patients and really helped them tough it out.”

Jenni Tobias said cancer never held her mother back.

“She did all the things on her bucket list, which she had stuck on the fridge. She always lived; she didn’t let cancer defeat her.”

In April 2008, Kathy Tobias received the national DAISY Award for nursing excellence, the first Southern Arizona nurse so honored. The award recognizes nurses who demonstrate excellence through clinical expertise, extraordinary service and compassionate care.

Jenni Tobias hopes to raise the remaining $8,000 by year’s end and is contacting her mother’s Beta Sigma Phi sorority sisters.

“She built so many relationship with her patients ... she worked hard but enjoyed her work and made a difference. She always went above and beyond... she had a beautiful soul,” Tobias said.

Contact Green Valley freelance reporter Ellen Sussman at

How to help

Donations to the Kathleen Tobias nursing scholarship may be sent to the Pima Community College Foundation, 4905-C E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, 85709-1320. Note “Kathleen Tobias Scholarship” on the memo line or send a brief letter noting the purpose of the donation. Questions: Call  206-4646.