A Cancer Survivor's Story

Published on: 
Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healer® Volume 17, Volume 17,

Deborah Lorick, M.S.N., M.H.A., RN, RNOCN, was the assistant nurse manager on the oncology unit where my husband was a patient. Deborah was always making sure that my husband, my children and I were well cared for.

Who is a survivor? According to the National Cancer Institute, a survivor is one who remains alive and continues to function during and after overcoming a serious hardship or life-threatening disease. A patient with cancer is considered to be a survivor from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.

In my opinion, cancer survivors should also include the patient’s family. The family of the patient with cancer also is extremely affected by the diagnosis of their loved one, from diagnosis to the end of their loved one’s life and beyond. This is why I consider myself a survivor.

My husband received a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer at age 40. I was 31 years old at the time with two young children, 7 and 9 years old. I was completely lost and felt completely alone at the time. That is when Deborah stepped in.

Deborah Lorick, M.S.N., M.H.A., RN, RNOCN, was the assistant nurse manager on the oncology unit where my husband was a patient. Deborah was always making sure that my husband, my children and I were well cared for. I am sure, without a doubt, that Deborah gave this attention to every patient, but she definitely had a way of making me feel like we were the focus of her attention.

As time went on and my husband became very ill, Deborah asked me a very simple yet courageous question, which she says she does not remember asking. She asked me what my plans were once “this was all over” and said, “You should really think about nursing.” At the time, surviving one day at a time — even one hour at a time — was all I could think about.

However, that question would swirl through my mind every so often. I had no education past high school. I had no career and very little work experience. I had no idea what I would do when I no longer had to care for my husband, but one thing was for sure: I did not want to be a nurse.

I witnessed with my own eyes how difficult it is to be a nurse. I saw the nurses take care of my husband, giving him multiple blood transfusions, multiple antibiotics, chemotherapy, pain medication every four hours, all while donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE), whether it was for contact isolation because my husband had a Clostridium difficile infection or to keep my husband safe with reverse isolation PPE. I witnessed nurses work 12 hours tirelessly while remaining compassionate and professional. If there was anything that made me consider nursing, it was the professionalism and compassion that each nurse who cared for my husband had.

Once my husband did pass away, I had to seriously consider how I would provide for my children. The words that Deborah had spoken began to swirl in my head. Although I believed that I could not be a nurse, doors began to open up in that direction. I decided that I would take a leap of faith and see if I could do it.

Deborah was right there ready to cheer me on when she found out I had been accepted to the nursing program at College of the Canyons. Once Deborah realized I was moving in the direction of nursing, she became my cheerleader and mentor. It is truly because of Deborah that I consider myself a survivor.

Once in the nursing program and during my clinical rotations, it was there that I had realized that God could use me to comfort families and assist them through one of the most difficult events in their lives. My first rotation was on the oncology unit where my husband had been a patient. The first patient that I laid my hands on is one I will remember for my entire life. That is when I decided that I would become an oncology nurse. Being an oncology nurse has been what has given me the title of survivor.

I have continued my education, receiving my bachelor’s degree in 2013 and my master’s degree in 2019. I am now an oncology nurse navigator. It is because of Deborah that I have become a dedicated oncology nurse, providing compassionate and professional care to every patient I serve.

Deborah is my hero, and I honestly cannot say that I know where I would be if it were not for Deborah caring for my family as a whole. I will always be grateful for Deborah’s compassion for my family and for guiding me to the most amazing and rewarding career. I not only survived because of Deborah, but I thrive because of Deborah.

The impact that Deborah has on patients on a daily basis is amazing. I cannot begin to thank her for the impact that she had on the life of my husband. It is because of Deborah that my husband’s family are survivors.

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