A patient details the peace he felt in the presence of his oncology nurse while receiving treatment for bladder cancer.
It started in 2018, with a medication linked to aggressive prostate cancer. My prostate-specific antigen level doubled in six months. An MRI revealed a large prostate mass, and my prognosis was not great.
During that time, I made peace with my mortality and the Lord. He would be with me and He would put people in my life who needed to be there. Biopsy results showed that I had a small amount of very low-grade cancer. I felt I had been healed.
July 2019 brought a new cancer journey. A toilet full of blood will get your attention. Emergency room visits, CAT Scans, MRIs, cystoscopies (a fancy term for shoving unnatural things up into your body to look inside), and first and second opinions. I received a diagnosis of muscle invasive bladder cancer. My treatment plan included chemotherapy and participating in a clinical trial with a one in three chance of bladder retention.
When I go to a doctor's office, my blood pressure is always high. Today is my first day in Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. Everything is new. It's scary and the ending doesn't look great. I could lose my bladder or die, or lose my bladder then die. Then there's chemo; they try to poison the cancer without quite killing you.
I walk into the lab trying to look strong and confident, but that's for show. I’m filled with questions, uncertainty, doubts and fear. Elly Palmer, M.S.N., RN, CNL, OCN, greets me. There are no words to explain the incredible sense of peace that came over me. I'm in the presence of an angel. There are no bells or whistles, no bright shining lights, no music, just incredible peace. My angel touches me and without a word says, “Jack, you will be alright. You are safe here.”
We find a common background in teaching. She felt called to be an infusion nurse, but today, the regular lab nurse called in sick, so Elly is standing in for her. I say, “There is no question in my mind you are exactly where you are supposed to be today.” She quietly responds, “I know.” She is there to comfort this fragile person at the beginning of a very scary walk. And my blood pressure? Absolutely normal.
Although I requested Elly as my infusion nurse, that was not to be. That did not dissuade Elly from being my healing angel. When I came in for infusions, she took time to comfort and encourage me. She likely stretched the truth a tad when she said how good I looked, but I always looked forward to and appreciated her healing presence and support.
Now a year after chemo, she blesses me with occasional brief visits when I come in for follow-ups. If I never see her again, she will always be a dear friend. She is a critical part of my healing and recovery. Even with so few times together, she is one of those rare, extraordinary people to whom I can say, “You have changed my life.” And for that, I gratefully and humbly nominate Elly for the 2021 Extraordinary Healers® Award for Oncology Nursing.
Editor’s Note: This is an essay submitted by John Dunlap 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.
For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.