Appreciating the Hardest-Working Oncology Nurse I Know

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 11, Volume 10, Issue 1

An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring MONIQUE CLAYTON, B.S.N. [SOCIAL CLINICAL RESEARCH SPECIALIST AND STUDY COORDINATOR, LINEBERGER COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER, CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA]

Monique Clayton, B.S.N., and Kevin Dimit PHOTOS BY KATHLEEN HUNTER

When my wife came across the advertisement for the CURE® Extraordinary Healer Award, I said right away to her that I should nominate Monique. When you sit down to write about someone, you want to make sure that you convince everyone that your nurse is better than all the rest, but, in my opinion, most oncology nurses are special. I figure the better thing to do is tell you why I feel Monique is the best for me!

I’m what I bet some would call a difficult patient. I don’t like to be told what to do, I don’t like getting bad news and I don’t like that I have cancer. This may not be different from a lot of patients, but I admit this up front to all who care for me. Monique accepts me for me. She is direct, and she doesn’t try to sugarcoat things with me. For example, I recently had to get my diabetes under control, and kept pushing back about going to see a specialist for this. She looked right at me and told me to take care of myself! She has a way of getting me to do things that no one else can. She helps me work in my appointments around my son’s school schedule. If there are times that the clinic seems to be running behind, somehow I always get in if time is getting short, and I know that she is behind it! I don’t feel like I am coming to see my cancer team when I have to come for my visits. I feel like I am catching up with a friend as soon as I see Monique. I check in with the oncologist once every month. The best part of this visit is that Monique is the first person I see.

Sometimes I have to wait to be seen, and she always comes out and checks in with me. She greets me with a hug, and her first questions are, “How are you doing?” and “How are your wife and son?” It’s a consistency I look forward to and appreciate. When we meet in the room, we catch up on what’s going on in our lives. We share stories about our families, and we make each other laugh. There are times that I tell her things that make her laugh so hard she will have tears running down her face. It makes me feel good (normal) and gets my mind off why I am really there. I feel secure during these visits because she is there from start to finish. Monique takes notes and remembers every little detail. Sometimes the doctor and I try to remember things, and she chimes in with whatever we are trying to recall. She never makes me feel like just another patient or person she is having to meet with. This makes me feel special, and it is what makes her so very special to me!

Recently, I found out my primary oncologist was leaving UNC. This news was earth-shattering to me. As I told you before, I don’t like bad news. Thank goodness for Monique. She made me feel so much better about this whole situation. On the last day I would have been able to see him, Monique made sure that he stopped by my room to say goodbye. I had a great visit with him and said a proper goodbye. I would not have had that closure if it wasn’t for Monique going the extra mile.

One of my best memories of Monique is actually when I was having a bad day. We were talking as we always do, and she was trying her best to cheer me up. She was telling me that we are