Blending the Art and Skill of Oncology Nursing With Boundless Compassion

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

Extraordinary Healer Volume 10's winning essay honoring Lynne Malestic, RN [ Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center in Rancho Mirage, California ]

Lynne Malestic, RN - PHOTO BY HEATHER LEE

The world of oncology presents challenges every day and in every way. Patients develop a special appreciation for everything in life while their physicians and nurses have the opportunity to experience a similar appreciation for life and relationships. Hope suddenly means everything to patients newly diagnosed with cancer and their families.

Being a nurse in oncology blends the art and skill of nursing with the essence of compassion, creating a challenging and rewarding practice environment that attracts the best of the best in nursing. One nurse in particular with whom I work at the Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center, Lynne Malestic, stands out as an extraordinary healer — through what is simply ordinary work for her.

Every day Lynne greets her patients with warmth, comfort and compassion. She monitors patients and families with her in-depth knowledge and assessment skills. A normal day for Lynne includes many hugs, tears of joy and empathy sprinkled among her safe, evidence-based practice and collaboration with the physician to provide a healing environment like no other. Although there are many testimonies about Lynne’s extraordinary healing abilities, I would like to share one story that spans several years.

Lynne was caring for a foreign-born woman who was just diagnosed with cancer in the hospital. During her nursing assessment, she noted that the woman and her husband had no support network and lacked the coping mechanisms necessary to effectively transition into this new chapter of their lives. Lynne used her therapeutic communication skills to teach this couple the basics of their roles in the cancer treatment and what they needed to know to ensure their safety at home. Soon, the patient was readmitted, and Lynne again cared for this couple. It was near the holidays when the patient was discharged, and Lynne wanted to ensure that the couple experienced the true warmth of the holidays. So she invited them into her home to celebrate with her and her family.

Lynne continued providing care for the couple during their treatment, as well as outside of acute care as a member of the community. Fast-forward several months, and the patient was faced with progression of disease, increased pain and the decision of continuing with aggressive treatment or choosing hospice. After the patient made the difficult decision to go onto hospice, Lynne moved the woman into Lynne’s own home and worked with the hospice team to care for her and her husband until her inevitable yet peaceful passing. The husband was eternally grateful for the extraordinary caring exhibited by Lynne and her family, and they kept in touch, celebrating life and holidays together.

Several years later, the husband was diagnosed with cancer. A widower in a foreign society has never felt more supported and cared for than this man. Having lost his ability to live independently, he, too, was moved into Lynne’s home, and she and her family cared for him during his active treatment and until the end of his life. Lynne and her family were forever changed by the experience they had with this couple. Lynne has a daughter, Lauren, who has grown up observing this extraordinary effort and experiencing firsthand what a difference one extraordinary person can make.

Lauren is now a beautiful, smart and driven 16-year-old, whose goal is to become an RN like her mom. She helped care for the husband during his final months of life. While her friends were shopping and doing things teenagers enjoy, she was cultivating her own inner nurse. She now volunteers at the cancer center during the summer and has been impressed by the other oncology nurses and patients. She knows that her calling is oncology nursing.

Although Lynne and her family feel that they were the ones to be blessed with coming to know this couple, I know that the couple felt doubly blessed to be cared for by Lynne and her family. I am personally blessed by knowing Lynne and all of the other members of the extraordinary oncology care team I have the privilege to work with every day.