A Cancer Nurse Heals the Body, Mind and Soul

Extraordinary Healer®Extraordinary Healer® Volume 17
Volume 17

For a young girl dying of cancer, whose mother had other children at home to take care of, Sobha Akkar, B.S.N., RN, OCN, became a motherly figure.

From left: Sobha Akkar, B.S.N., RN, OCN, an oncology nurse in teal scrubs, wearing a lanyard filled with daisy pins and Narayan Ray Akkar, a man in a blue and white plaid shirt, wearing glasses. both are smiling at the camera |   Photos by Alyssa Stefek

Narayan Ray Akkar nominated his wife, Sobha Akkar, B.S.N., RN, OCN, for the Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing after seeing how she went above and beyond for her patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From left: Sobha Akkar, B.S.N., RN, OCN and Narayan Ray Akkar

Photos by Alyssa Stefek

A cancer diagnosis is one of the most gut-wrenching pieces of news a human may receive. Until the recent past, this news meant the end of the line for the individual and often the families. Today, institutions such as City of Hope provide a glimmer of hope with cutting-edge treatments and care practices. Within the fabric of such facilities, real humans become angels; they deliver the necessary care and support to the patient with cancer and their family. The dedication of these nurses comes from education, experience and the environment.

I want to nominate an oncology nurse from City of Hope, Sobha Akkar, B.S.N., RN, OCN, for the Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing. Having observed my wife for 35 years, I can describe why she deserves this award. Allow me to list a few instances when Sobha delivered extraordinary care, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stories such as these were the topic of conversation at our dinner table through- out the pandemic (details omitted for privacy reasons). Many people died alone during the pandemic due to strict COVID-19 visitation protocols.

For a young girl dying of cancer, whose mother had other children at home to take care of, Sobha became a motherly figure. During her final moments, Sobha held her little hands in support, while the mother bid goodbye via video call. Nobody deserves to die alone.

Another one of her patients was engaged and scheduled to be married during her hospital stay. The wedding planning was already completed when the diagnosis stopped the couple in their tracks. Sobha helped her team arrange a wedding in the lobby of the hospital with complete quarantine precautions. A union of hearts could not be derailed by a pandemic.

Then there was a beautiful farewell for another woman who had exhausted all treatment options. The family, including her husband, could not bear to let her go. Sobha observed that the family was connected through music. After the patient was extubated, the musician husband hummed their favorite first-date song as he played the guitar and said goodbye to his wife via a video call; the patient tightly held on to Sobha’s hands and calmly took her last breath; another family member and support staff calmly witnessed the peaceful passing. With compassion and communication, a family was brought together to embrace death as a beautiful experience serenaded with music.

This story involved the parents of a young man from Asia. Sobha quickly understood their different cultural mindset; they view deadly diseases and end-of-life scenarios quite differently. Sobha adopted the parents during the length of his stay. She arranged for their accommodation, looked after their daily needs such as laundry and meals to the very end. When the patient died, she connected them with local supporters who helped transport his body to be buried in their home church. She helped the family heal by bridging the gap between cultures.

The clock continues ticking even outside work hours. Sobha volunteers time in the community, where I have witnessed seniors with various maladies come to discuss their problems. She is on speed dial (I believe) for our friends and family who want advice or need a sounding board. A compassionate healer never stops healing others.

I wondered how Sobha is able to handle these diverse situations, and so I had discussions regarding what motivates her. Her credentials include B.S.N., RN, OCN; she is an end-of-life trainer. But how did she become a healer? She had humble beginnings in rural India, where lessons from her traditions and nature shaped her early childhood. Later, mentoring by Catholic school nuns exposed her to the joy of serving others. This may have instilled in her a compassionate caring attitude that set her on this life mission of healing.

She developed her innate nursing skills through practicing and preaching meditation. I believe her compassion comes from her practice of the “Mind-Thoughts-Actions-Results” regimen, a holistic protocol for healing the mind, body and soul. An open and pure mind nurtures healthy positive thoughts, which in turn transform into meaningful and appropriate actions. The results of such actions are undoubtedly positive.

Cancer treatments have advanced in the past couple of decades but there is no cure (yet). Sobha’s healing regimen makes it a little easier for the patients and their families to accept the cancer diagnosis and prepare for the treatments, possible side effects and end results.

She leaves home for work with an open mind. Her associates say that every one of her interactions with patients evokes magical connections. Once connected, she is able to draw on her almost 15 years of experience with patients with cancer at City of Hope to determine the appropriate course of action. She has earned a few dozen Daisy nominations and awards. But at the end of the day, it is not these recognitions that keep her going; the positive results of her actions, for a patient or family, are a reward in itself for her.

At the end of her day at work, she manages to come home free of stress. She is proud of her day at work and never complains after a long or difficult shift. The five pillars of her strength are traditions, (lessons from) nature, education, experience and environment; these pillars shaped Sobha into a truly extraordinary healer.

Patients with cancer and their families need effective and meaningful support. At City of Hope, the end-to-end support system is unparalleled. In the cradle of such an institutional environment, Sobha is a perfect fit to practice her healing. With her selfless love and com- passion, she continues to make a difference for patients with cancer and families every day.

As Sobha would often say, “We have two eyes to observe and two ears to listen, so why not use these, along with our uncluttered mind to help those in need.” She is one extraordinary healer!

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