An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Debbie O’Sullivan, RN, OCN [UT Health Northeast Cancer Treatment and Prevention Center in Tyler, Texas]
When my wife Lacinda and I were informed that we had cancer, we were in a very bad place, but knew we had to find an oncologist as quickly as possible. We were able to set up two appointments on the same day. We liked the first doctor, but weren’t crazy about the location or the facility. The main thing that turned us off was the indifference of the doctor’s nurse and staff.
Our second appointment was with Dr. Singh at UTNE Cancer Center. The first person we met after checking in was Debbie O’Sullivan. (I should mention that Lacinda’s sister Laura was also with us on both of our appointments. The rooms aren’t designed for three people, but they were glad to have the extra support for Lacinda.)
Right away, Debbie showed her sincere concern for us and was a wonderful listener. We had had a heck of a journey getting to the point we were at. Debbie asked all of the questions you would expect of an oncology nurse, and she was very receptive to us telling our story — and at times, losing our emotions. She took down the information and told us that Dr. Singh would be in to talk with us. When she left and the door closed behind her, almost at once we all agreed we liked her. Having a person helping my wife was amazing, and Dr. Singh was equally impressive. Needless to say, we chose UTNE for our cancer treatment.
Our treatment started at once, which was chemo every 21 days. The treatment was rough for Lacinda, but each visit, Debbie was there to encourage us. Each appointment we got closer with her, not just about our cancer treatment, but about our families. We talked about our favorite foods, clothes and, of course, our kids and grandchildren.
Before our fifth round of chemo, we discovered that we qualified for the cancer pill Xalkori. What a wonderful gift. However, during that visit, we also found out that Dr. Singh would be taking a new position in Waco, Texas. Luckily, we would still have Debbie. She made the transition with the new oncologist, Dr. Hyman, as smooth as possible. At each visit, she would tell us how Dr. Singh’s new position was going.
Having Debbie during this time was most critical because we had had so much confidence in Dr. Singh. Debbie kept Dr. Singh informed about our treatment, so it felt like we still had him there. At each appointment, she would come to us in the waiting room and personally help us back to the examining room. Debbie is the kind of person who is so easy to talk to, but very professional while being your friend. Getting used to the new treatment was hard, but when I would call for help, Debbie always returned my calls as soon as possible. At times I’m scared while taking care of my wife, but knowing that I can call and get a question answered in a timely fashion helps so much.
Just about the time we got the new pill figured out, we found out that Debbie was leaving to work with Dr. Singh in Waco. Rather than dwelling on losing her, we were proud for her and her family. We had become so attached that we wanted good things for her. She and Dr. Singh make a good team. We know that. We have their phone numbers and email addresses, and are able to stay in touch. It means so much that Debbie and Dr. Singh continue to check on us.
Looking back on our journey battling cancer, I’m not sure we could have made it without Debbie and Dr. Singh. And they both continue to help us, even from Waco.