Giving Each Patient With Cancer the Time and Care They Need

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 9, Volume 9, Issue 1

An Extraordinary Healers essay honoring Sarah Rowe, RN, OCN [North Florida Cancer Affiliates in Panama City, Florida]

Jim Berrey, with Sarah Rowe, RN, OCN, and Barbara Berrey - PHOTO BY KIERSTEN GRANT

Sarah is always available to help her patients when they are troubled, and knows when and how to comfort them and to increase their positive effort by her actions. She takes time with the patient’s caregiver, which is very beneficial to the patient’s treatment. She carefully goes over my treatment and lab results, and answers my many questions.

Maybe this does not sound like an outstanding accomplishment or sounds as if it should be just be a part of the job. However, I have had stage III multiple myeloma for over five years, so this has been my life. The first year, the side effects were worse than the cancer: a coma for over four days, ending up with damaged lungs and very little body function, too weak to start another treatment for seven months. I was under the care of my caregiver with assistance from my nurse for another year. It took an exceptional oncology nurse to keep me motivated with a positive attitude to get over those three-and-a-half years, giving me the ability to receive a better treatment to obtain a stable condition.

Without Barbara, my wife and caregiver, and my extraordinary oncology nurse, there is no way I would be here today. Am I special? I would like to think so, however, Sarah takes care of each of her patients the same way, and many have a story like my own.

I asked my oncology doctor about the large turnover of excellent nurses and staff members I have noticed over the years. He said that it takes a special person to work day in and day out with patients with cancer, and many have to change their medical duties for their own wellbeing.

Yes, it takes a special person to be an oncology nurse and work and care for patients with cancer. Sarah is blessed with being one of these people, who for her own reasons has dedicated her life to helping these patients, their families and their caregivers.

For the past year, Sarah has assisted in establishing a multiple myeloma cancer support group that meets the first Saturday of each month at the Learning Center at Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center. She attends each meeting, helping all of those who attend — patients, caregivers, family and friends — and obtaining speakers and filling in as a support leader. We have grown from five members to more than 22, with 15 or more attending each meeting. Some travel from as far away as 80 miles, and many are not Sarah’s regular patients.

March is “Myeloma Awareness Month,” and Sarah is heading up a local blood drive in honor of our multiple myeloma support group. She also is very active with local breast and lung cancer programs.

Knowing Sarah only from what I have written here, you can see that she is an extraordinary oncology nurse. I believe that all oncology nurses must be extraordinary in their own ways, and I have been blessed with having one of the best.