A night to remember

This year's Extraordinary Healer award event at the Oncology Nursing Society meeting in Boston was the best yet. Of course, I say that every year while still in the energy of the event. The room was filled with nurses, and, while the finally tally has yet to come in, we had 850 RSVP. When each of the essayists read her words with her nurse standing beside her, it was hard not to get emotional. Our winner, Marie Hayek from Columbus, Texas, couldn't have been more surprised. Martha Hastedt, who nominated Hayek, wasn't surprised. She had been telling Marie to get ready to go to Boston, so sure was she that Marie's commitment to her oncology patients would win. Every year without fail, the winning nurse protests that the others were so much more worthy than she, and this year was no exception. I got to spend time with the finalists and the families and friends they brought to the event. Finalist Corinne Gray was accompanied by a very special friend named Cathy who, we found out, also lost her husband to cancer around the same time Corinne did. Robert Martinez was also her husband's nurse, and the women decided together that they would nominate him. They focused on Corinne's story but worked on the essay together. Martinez was the nominee who became an oncology nurse after retiring from Verizon after 30 years. He came to the event with his daughter Tomasita, who is also an oncology nurse. Mistress of Ceremonies Cyntian Nixon of Sex and the City fame chose sections from each of the essays for her talk. She also talked about all the people surrounding Sex and the City who had struggled with cancer, including Evan Handler, who played the role of Charlotte's husband. The show's writers were moved to add a story line about breast cancer in the series after so many of the show's writers dealt with cancer. Nixon was great, standing for pictures with nurses for 45 minutes before having to rush to her New York-bound train. The nurses clearly loved Nixon, with more than one squealing with delight as the shutter snapped. It was a remarkable evening.