Finding a New Friend Through Cancer
October 08, 2016 – Mack and Lacinda Frazier
Helping Me "Take Charge" After Cancer
October 01, 2016 – Jim Berrey
My Incomparable Oncology Nurse, Lilia
October 02, 2016 – Luke G. Conley III
Compassionate Cancer Care That Began With a Hug
September 19, 2016 – John G. Moisan
A Mother's Lifeline: An Amazing Oncology Nurse
September 17, 2016 – Lindsay Querin
A Lighthouse in the Storm of Cancer
September 11, 2016 – Myra Katsuki
My Extraordinary Healer Before and After Cancer Treatment
September 10, 2016 – Larinda Conrad
Finding an Unexpected Friend Through Breast Cancer
September 05, 2016 – Diane Makrinos
Good Karma From My Oncology Nurse, a Kindred Spirit
September 04, 2016 – Mary Ann Kurpinski (patient) and Linda Nabozny (sister)
My Letter to Nancy, an Extraordinary Oncology Nurse
September 03, 2016 – Shelli Greenland
The Oncology Nurse With the Pale Pink Booklet
August 28, 2016 – Tammy Wilsford
With Cancer, It's Either Laugh or Cry
August 28, 2016 – Melissa (Missy) Grace
Ray's Oncology Nurse: His Sunshine and Guardian Angel
August 20, 2016 – Raymond Dziolowski
Our Pediatric Oncology Superhero
August 21, 2016 – Glen Jusczyk on behalf of Malia Jusczyk
Our Extraordinary Home Link to the Oncologist
August 14, 2016 – Susan B. Whigham
Abby's Oncology Nurse: A Gift of Love to Our Family
August 14, 2016 – Steven Oliver
More Than Just a Cancer Nurse: Mel's Angel on Earth
August 08, 2016 – Aggie Higginbotham
A Grateful Daughter: How One Oncology Nurse Made All the Difference
August 06, 2016 – Darlene C. Terroni
Mom's Oncology Nurse: A True Lifesaver
July 31, 2016 – Cassidy Poske, daughter of Christi Poske
A Loyal Friendship Conquers Cancer's Boundaries
July 30, 2016 – Donna Clark, RN, BSN, OCN
One of the Quiet Oncology Heroes
July 24, 2016 – Lisa Barnes
My Personal Cancer Warrior
July 24, 2016 – Rosemary E. Manbachi, CRNP
A Loving and Compassionate Oncology Nurse
July 18, 2016 – Revathi Suppiah, MD
Behind the Scenes: Quietly Making Oncology Patients' Hopes a Reality
July 16, 2016 – David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH
Holding Our Mission -- and Her Oncology Patients -- in Her Heart
July 10, 2016 – Melissa Andres, BSN, RN, OCN
On the Frontlines, Advocating for Every Child With Cancer
July 04, 2016 – Daniel W. Lee, MD
My Oncology Nurse: A Shining Star of Hope
July 03, 2016 – Jessie M. Turner
An Oncology Nurse's Perseverance to Dig Deeper
July 02, 2016 – Catherine Hugues
Just an Oncology Nurse? Not At All
June 25, 2016 – Nina Garkavi
My Oncology Nurse and Lifesaver
June 26, 2016 – Mallory Turchi
A Healer for the Heart and Soul Throughout My Cancer Journey
June 12, 2016 – Jessica Bembry, RN, BSN, OCN and Sissy Smith
An Oncology Nurse With a Million Dollar Smile and Priceless Heart
June 11, 2016 – Brandi Brethour
Making a Long-Term Commitment to Pediatric Patients: An Interview With Diana Gordon
May 29, 2016 – DIANA GORDON, RN, MSN, CPNP, CPON
A Tireless Advocate for Children With Cancer and a Beacon of Hope
May 28, 2016 – Julie Blatt, MD
Advocating for Patients With Cancer, Near and Far
May 31, 2016 – Carmi Fazio, RN, MSN, ONA
An Extraordinary Healer and So Much More
May 16, 2016 – Lisa Chapman
The Joy of Caring: An Interview With Extraordinary Healer Winner Lynne Malestic
May 22, 2016 – Lynne Malestic, RN
Blending the Art and Skill of Oncology Nursing With Boundless Compassion
May 21, 2016 – Cera Stanford, BSN, RN, PHN, NE-BC, HACP
Finding a New Friend Through Cancer
October 08, 2016 – Mack and Lacinda Frazier
Helping Me "Take Charge" After Cancer
October 01, 2016 – Jim Berrey
My Incomparable Oncology Nurse, Lilia
October 02, 2016 – Luke G. Conley III
Currently Viewing
Compassionate Cancer Care That Began With a Hug
September 19, 2016 – John G. Moisan
A Lighthouse in the Storm of Cancer
September 11, 2016 – Myra Katsuki
My Extraordinary Healer Before and After Cancer Treatment
September 10, 2016 – Larinda Conrad
Finding an Unexpected Friend Through Breast Cancer
September 05, 2016 – Diane Makrinos
Good Karma From My Oncology Nurse, a Kindred Spirit
September 04, 2016 – Mary Ann Kurpinski (patient) and Linda Nabozny (sister)
My Letter to Nancy, an Extraordinary Oncology Nurse
September 03, 2016 – Shelli Greenland
The Oncology Nurse With the Pale Pink Booklet
August 28, 2016 – Tammy Wilsford
With Cancer, It's Either Laugh or Cry
August 28, 2016 – Melissa (Missy) Grace
Ray's Oncology Nurse: His Sunshine and Guardian Angel
August 20, 2016 – Raymond Dziolowski
Our Pediatric Oncology Superhero
August 21, 2016 – Glen Jusczyk on behalf of Malia Jusczyk
Our Extraordinary Home Link to the Oncologist
August 14, 2016 – Susan B. Whigham
Abby's Oncology Nurse: A Gift of Love to Our Family
August 14, 2016 – Steven Oliver
More Than Just a Cancer Nurse: Mel's Angel on Earth
August 08, 2016 – Aggie Higginbotham
A Grateful Daughter: How One Oncology Nurse Made All the Difference
August 06, 2016 – Darlene C. Terroni
Mom's Oncology Nurse: A True Lifesaver
July 31, 2016 – Cassidy Poske, daughter of Christi Poske
A Loyal Friendship Conquers Cancer's Boundaries
July 30, 2016 – Donna Clark, RN, BSN, OCN
One of the Quiet Oncology Heroes
July 24, 2016 – Lisa Barnes
My Personal Cancer Warrior
July 24, 2016 – Rosemary E. Manbachi, CRNP
A Loving and Compassionate Oncology Nurse
July 18, 2016 – Revathi Suppiah, MD
Behind the Scenes: Quietly Making Oncology Patients' Hopes a Reality
July 16, 2016 – David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH
Holding Our Mission -- and Her Oncology Patients -- in Her Heart
July 10, 2016 – Melissa Andres, BSN, RN, OCN
On the Frontlines, Advocating for Every Child With Cancer
July 04, 2016 – Daniel W. Lee, MD
My Oncology Nurse: A Shining Star of Hope
July 03, 2016 – Jessie M. Turner
An Oncology Nurse's Perseverance to Dig Deeper
July 02, 2016 – Catherine Hugues
Just an Oncology Nurse? Not At All
June 25, 2016 – Nina Garkavi
My Oncology Nurse and Lifesaver
June 26, 2016 – Mallory Turchi
A Healer for the Heart and Soul Throughout My Cancer Journey
June 12, 2016 – Jessica Bembry, RN, BSN, OCN and Sissy Smith
An Oncology Nurse With a Million Dollar Smile and Priceless Heart
June 11, 2016 – Brandi Brethour
Making a Long-Term Commitment to Pediatric Patients: An Interview With Diana Gordon
May 29, 2016 – DIANA GORDON, RN, MSN, CPNP, CPON
A Tireless Advocate for Children With Cancer and a Beacon of Hope
May 28, 2016 – Julie Blatt, MD
Advocating for Patients With Cancer, Near and Far
May 31, 2016 – Carmi Fazio, RN, MSN, ONA
An Extraordinary Healer and So Much More
May 16, 2016 – Lisa Chapman
The Joy of Caring: An Interview With Extraordinary Healer Winner Lynne Malestic
May 22, 2016 – Lynne Malestic, RN
Blending the Art and Skill of Oncology Nursing With Boundless Compassion
May 21, 2016 – Cera Stanford, BSN, RN, PHN, NE-BC, HACP

Compassionate Cancer Care That Began With a Hug

An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Annie Nelson, RN, MSN [ Sanford Cancer Center and Center for Digestive Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota  ]
BY John G. Moisan
PUBLISHED September 19, 2016
Annie Nelson, RN, MSN and John G. Moisan - PHOTO BY KISHA ABBAS
Annie Nelson, RN, MSN and John G. Moisan - PHOTO BY KISHA ABBAS
Annie Nelson wanted to be an English teacher, but her teacher, Steven Wallenberg, encouraged her to read “Oh Captain, My Captain” from “Dead Poet’s Society.” That poem changed her life, and she went on to become a registered nurse, specializing in gastrointestinal oncology at the Sanford Cancer Center and Center for Digestive Health. Coincidentally, and sadly, Steven Wallenberg, her English teacher and mentor, later died of pancreatic cancer.

I first met Annie only four days after my initial diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Annie, a fivefoot- nothing “ball of fire” in a white lab coat, shot into my consultation room like a meteor into the atmosphere, briefcase in one hand and my “cancer paperwork kit” in the other hand. I could immediately tell that this was a woman with compassion and understanding, and one who had many answers to the literally thousands of questions I had about pancreatic cancer.

For the first time in my 67 years, I felt like I had been given a death sentence and that I had totally lost control of my future, with my demise just months (or less) away. Hopelessness and vulnerability had never entered my life until the diagnosis of stage 2b pancreatic andenocarcinoma was confirmed.

The words “Get your affairs in order” had never occurred to me until then. I was desperately afraid — not of dying, but of the thoughts of what would be left behind … what would happen to my disabled wife … I hadn’t taken my grandson hunting or fishing … I wouldn’t see my granddaughters go to the prom … I hadn’t gone on the cruise with my wife that I had always promised. For all of the things I had failed to do that we’d planned for during retirement, and for all of the things I had said or not said to our five children and a multitude of friends. How would my kids do in life? Can they make it without “Dad’s wisdom” and guidance? All unanswered and unsolved. Annie Nelson helped me to answer those questions.

Annie Nelson, my oncology nurse savior, approached me, stood up on her tiptoes and gave me a huge hug. She said, “You will get through this, we will get through this together,” as if we were on this cancer journey as a team. Annie knew about fear, mostly because she had seen hundreds of cancer patients before me. A hug, believe it or not, was exactly what I needed from somebody who knew about this terrible disease.

Over the course of these past 17 months, Annie has been at my biopsy, analyzed the pathology reports, attended three surgeries, sat through countless oncology appointments, held my hand through chemotherapy and radiation sessions and has been relentless in looking for clinical trials.

We have talked extensively, cried together, prayed together and shared funny and not-so-funny family stories together. Since my diagnosis, Annie has been a pillar of encouragement and hope in an otherwise discouraging and hopeless situation.

On August 13, 2015, at my first postchemo checkup, extensive tests showed no evidence of disease (NED). More recently, on November 24, 2015, I had the second three-month follow-up with my oncologist, Dr. Jonathan Bleeker. He reported that there was, again, NED on my CT scan and that my pancreatic blood marker CA 19-9 had dropped from 9 to 7, with 0-35 being normal.

And, you guessed it: Annie was there both times to hear the good news that the pancreatic cancer had not returned and had not metastasized to other parts of my body. Annie, my wife and I all embraced for the “signature hug” and a celebratory flood of tears.

For a period of two years, until June 2017, I will repeat this process every 90 days. I know that the odds of pancreatic cancer returning are very high because of the 3% five-year survival rate. As I approach the end of each 90-day period, the anxiety that goes with the post-treatment follow-ups is almost unbearable. But I know that I can call Annie any time. I know that, because of her experience, I can count on her for encouragement, wisdom, advice and the occasional prayer to help ease the anxiety.

Annie has been there for my family and me every single step of this cancer journey. She is a true guardian angel in a white lab coat who relentlessly pursues healing of body, mind and spirit, not only for me, but for each and every cancer patient she sees.

Annie Nelson, RN, helped to save my life, and I will always be grateful — and it all started with a hug.
Be the first to discuss this article on CURE's forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.

Related Articles

1
×

Sign In

Not a member? Sign up now!
×

Sign Up

Are you a member? Please Log In