An Exceptional Healer in MyelomaLand

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 8, Volume 14, Issue 1

IT IS WITH ENTHUSIASM that I nominate Yesenia Nunez, RN, for CURE's 2014 Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing.

IT IS WITH ENTHUSIASM that I nominate Yesenia Nunez, RN, for CURE’s 2014 Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing. While I consider the entire nursing staff of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit of the University of Maryland Greenbaum Cancer Center to be excellent, Ms. Nunez is exceptional.

MS. NUNEZ RECEIVED HER BACHELOR OF SCIENCE in nursing from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 2011, and became a registered nurse in August 2011. She was certified in chemotherapy and biotherapy administration through the University of Maryland Medical School in February 2012.

This is where I had the good fortune to meet Ms. Nunez. I am a 62-year-old dentist who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma two years ago. I received an autologous stem cell transplant in October 2013. Due to a relapse of the myeloma, I was re-hospitalized in January 2014 for chemotherapy and a reintroduction of my stem cells.

Ms. Nunez was my primary nurse for both admissions. Over my five weeks of hospitalizations, Ms. Nunez was a consistent source of empathy and concern for my comfort and well-being. She was also my conduit to positive thinking, which is essential for recovery. My experience as a health care professional is in dealing with the many physical and psychological needs of relatively healthy people on an outpatient basis. The Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit is a far different world, as the patients are in debilitative physical and emotional states in a restrictive hospital unit. It takes a special person to work on a daily basis with this patient population. Ms. Nunez is that special person.

Aside from her excellent nursing skills, she made herself available to answer questions about my progress. Without using medical jargon, Ms. Nunez often explained my treatment to my family and how I was progressing in my journey through “Myelomaland.” She also very clearly explained to my family how to handle the restrictions I would be under at home. Her manner was very nonthreatening and sometimes humorous. Ms. Nunez was a source of comfort to me and my family.

I was despondent eight weeks after my first discharge when I learned I had to return to the unit, as my stem cell transplant failed. Yet, although this quick return was not on my bucket list, the calm and kind manner in which Ms. Nunez welcomed me and eased my transition back into the unit helped me to quickly adjust once again to the routine of being a hospitalized cancer patient. While not exactly a welcome homecoming, I was quickly put at ease emotionally, my depression subsided and I felt that the unit was my home away from home.

One of Ms. Nunez’s great interpersonal skills is engaging in topics of interest to the patient while fulfilling her nursing duties. Ms. Nunez facilitated countless impromptu medical and dental discussions with me. While I read as much as I can on multiple myeloma, there is a disconnect between scientific papers and the actual treatment modalities. Ms. Nunez helped bridge that knowledge gap in explaining why my physician wanted to do procedure A instead of B at a certain point in time. In return, I explained basic dentistry and proper oral hygiene, most important for cancer patients. I hope I was able to impart some of my knowledge to the Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit staff and improve the survival rate of their patients.

Ms. Nunez gave me the sense that I was of help to the unit in answering questions about dental conditions that compromise cancer treatments. In doing so, she helped me believe that I remained essential and still had worth, despite my cancer.

I see Ms. Nunez as the quintessential oncology nurse, who is hands-on, knowledgeable and compassionate. The likelihood is that I will need another stem cell transplant. Being a regular on the unit is not as daunting a thought knowing I will be under the care of Ms. Nunez or one her excellent colleagues.