Finding Peace Amid the Fear of Cancer

Extraordinary Healer®Extraordinary Healer® Volume 17
Volume 17

Everything was hitting me all at once, and then it happened: Megha Shah, B.S.N., RN, OCN, walked into the room, and I found complete peace in her smile.

From left: Megha Shah, B.S.N., RN, OCN, and Lynda Rice  Photos by Arielle Gallione

"Everything was hitting me all at once, and then it happened: Megha Shah, B.S.N., RN, OCN, walked into the room, and I found complete peace in her smile," wrote Lynda Rice.

From left: Megha Shah, B.S.N., RN, OCN, and Lynda Rice

Photos by Arielle Gallione

On February 20, 2021, during a self-examination, I discovered a lump in my right breast and it stopped me in my tracks. I had undergone yearly scans and ultrasounds that revealed nothing of significance, and I’d had one done just two months before.

Three weeks later, I received a diagnosis of breast cancer. I was 52 years old and could not believe this was happening to me. My life was already on overload. My husband was disabled and had a host of medical issues, including Parkinson’s disease. My 23-year-old son with autism was starting college in the fall. My oldest son and his wife were living in Tennessee. My 90-year-old father was also battling Parkinson disease. My beautiful mother had passed away in 2019 from lymphoma. To make matters worse, the COVID-19 pandemic was still in motion, and no one knew what direction it was going.

I was stricken with thoughts of despair and did not know how I would handle all of this essentially alone. There was no one at home to help me, and I had to be my husband’s caretaker. I was supposed to be the one taking care of everyone, and everything felt so uncertain.

As anyone with cancer will tell you, initially there is no good news. There is an overwhelming flurry of appointments with doctors, technicians and labs. I had no one physically with me due to the pandemic. I felt like I was in a tunnel with no end, but I just kept moving.

Then it was time to start chemotherapy, which was terrifying. It was the poison that was going to run through my body for hours, damage many things in its path and make me sicker than I ever thought possible. However, it was going to be the thing that would help me live. I heard many horrific stories of reactions to chemotherapy, and now it was my turn. I did not want to start. I was not mentally strong enough. I needed my mother so much I could hardly breathe.

When I walked into the Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center Delnor to begin chemotherapy, I felt like I was float- ing. The treatment rooms were beautiful and friendly faces surrounded me, but I just could not believe this was happening. I was put in a room for what they told me could be up to eight hours.

Everything was hitting me all at once, and then it happened: Megha Shah, B.S.N., RN, OCN, walked into the room, and I found complete peace in her smile. It felt warm and compassionate and made me feel secure. She pulled up a chair next to me, sat down and told me in the most reassuring, gentle voice that we would take it one step at a time. My fear literally drifted away, and I finally felt my feet on the ground.

Megha spoke softly and calmly and explained the treatment I was going to receive, why she was wearing protective gear, what the beeps were on the machines, what a “check” was, what drug was going in and for how long. I never — not once — felt scared after I met her.

We were off on this adventure together, and I trusted her every step of the way. I had an amazing sense of security knowing I would see her during treatments. Regardless of the fears or questions I had, she never made me feel rushed or that I was imposing upon her. She has been a fount of knowledge. She would bring me snacks, water and warm blankets.

Significantly, in spite of my anxiety and anguish, she has made me laugh. Megha knew what I needed before I needed it. She was my rock. She held me up when I felt broken, and I trusted her with my tears when I was vulnerable.

Peaceful is the only word to describe my visits with her. Megha showed me kindness and com- passion in so many little ways she probably doesn’t even realize. It was everything from bringing me something to drink, to her laugh, to counting before she put the needle in my port, to sitting next to me for a few minutes and asking how I really was.

My life at home was very complicated, so cancer wasn’t the only thing I was juggling. Megha reminded me, however, that even though I had all that happening, I had to take care of myself. I had to make myself a priority, and that was essential to my recovery. Megha gave me something no one did through this ordeal — she made me feel important. I was surrounded by so many people in my life who needed something from me that I didn’t have the strength to give. But for a few hours every three weeks I was important. It was about me. She brightened my day, made me feel that I was surviving and that it was all going to be OK. She brought me an inner peace I didn’t know I was missing.

I am nominating Megha Shah for the Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing. She not only manifests the traits and knowledge required in her profession, but she does so with an abundance of heart and kindness. Simply stated, she is amazing. She has taught me volumes about compassion and vulnerability. She is dedicated to helping patients with cancer. She takes great pride in her work, and she is exceptional. She lifted me up so many times, I lost count. I will never know how to properly thank her.

Even though I have finished treatment, I can honestly say that I am grateful that because of this horrible disease Megha came into my life. When I reflect on my cancer journey, I feel a rush of peace come over me and warm me because of the care and kindness she gave me. It is an amazing feeling. Megha deserves to be honored with the Extraordinary Healer Award because she is extraordinary. I am so blessed that she was my nurse.

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