‘Treadmill of Survivorship’ With a Supportive Oncology Nurse

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healer® Vol. 15, Volume 15,

A patient with ovarian cancer details the compassion she experienced with her oncology nurse even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joann Nugent, B.S.N., RN, is the epitome of an oncology nurse. Her patients are the lucky recipients of her knowledge, experience, compassion, warmth and humor.

For any woman, ovarian cancer is a frightening diagnosis. Initially, a woman rallies her resources, both internal (a woman's inner grit) and external (her family and friends). Then, she hops on what I like to refer to as the “treadmill of survivorship,” which includes debulking surgery, hospital stays, months of chemo, a myriad of diagnostics and scans, various surgical procedures, endless pharmacy runs and now because of the pandemic, frequent COVID-19 tests and screenings.

While a cancer survivor is fortunate to benefit from the institution of modern medicine, at times she may feel overwhelmed emotionally and physically by that institution. Times of feeling lost and isolated are not uncommon. While the diagnostics, consultations and treatments are all vitally important, a cancer survivor’s need to feel that her voice is being heard by the very same medical institution fighting to save her life is just as vital, if not more so. Having a medical lifeline or patient advocate who will listen and empathize with the cancer survivor is key to the survivor's well-being, her recovery and, ultimately, her long-term survival. Joann is my lifeline, my advocate.

The moment I first spoke to Joann, I knew I had met not only a very special nurse but a very special person. Her knowledge and experience are without question. Joann has the distinct ability to articulate questions or concerns I sometimes stumble to express. She is proactive on my behalf, oftentimes resolving issues big and small before I have had a chance to ask for her help. Joann is a patient sounding board, even when I just need to complain. She always validates my feelings and my concerns. No matter what kind of day Joann may be having — particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic — she always greets me with a big smile. Her positive energy is infectious. Most of all, Joann makes me feel like I am her only patient, her only concern and the most important person in her life at that moment.

Editor’s Note: This is an essay submitted by Janie McCutchen for the 2021 Extraordinary Healer Award. Click here to read more about CURE®’s Extraordinary Healer® Award for Oncology Nursing event on April 30, 2021.

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