How Does a Patient with Cancer Nominate One Nurse?

A cancer survivor describes how oncology nurses have had a deep impact on her during treatment.

Every year, CURE® asks the cancer community to nominate a favorite oncology nurse. I never have been able to do this and the reason is positive. Every oncology nurse is special – how can I possibly nominate just one?

I have been going to the infusion floor every week for the past several years to receive shots to bolster my red and white blood counts. Previously, I went in for for shots in the stomach five days in a row every month for two years. I see my oncologist monthly, along with her great staff, and have gone there for 10 years. My oncologist is fantastic and very spiritual, which is a perfect combination for a cancer doctor. Her staff picks up on her positivity. I am convinced she has kept me alive longer than anyone else would have.

There have been so many nurses who helped me during this long journey, and I miss some of them who switched to other hospitals or retired. I remember going into the cancer center the first time I knew I would have to get two shots in the stomach. I did not sleep at all the night before. I was petrified, because my doctor had warned me that this was rough chemotherapy and I had been forced to give up the part-time teaching job that I loved. One of the nurses and a technician spent over half an hour explaining the side effects and what to expect. This made it infinitely easier for me. The nurse told me she had been there for 18 years and had taken care of patients for that long. She loved her job and enjoyed meeting nice people and being able to help them! I had another nurse tell me she has been doing this for 38 years and told the student nurses to consider this career. She even went to calling hours for some of her patients after they passed.

After I began the shot treatments in my stomach, my doctor had to go to India because of the death of her father. Another nurse kept in touch with the doctor about the side effects I was having by communicating across the ocean.

I cherish the nurse who looked at my stomach when I was having a bone marrow biopsy and said I needed to tell my oncologist. I was having a rebound effect from the shots and had to stop the chemotherapy immediately.

I started weekly shots in the arm through the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. The hospital was almost totally shut down, with gift shops, coffee shops and many services completely stopped. I would only pass staff in the halls, since visitors were not allowed. This was eerie for me. All unnecessary services and surgeries were postponed.

What truly struck me was watching the nurses on the oncology floor. Their faces were stricken when they described how worried they were about the patients who were forgoing chemotherapy because they were scared to come to the hospital. The medical staff was afraid this decision would be fatal. Some of them told me their spouses were staying home with their children because the partner realized nursing was “more essential,” and knew the nurses were helping people.

One nurse told me she stopped at a grocery store on the way home, and someone yelled at her for coming in there and putting other customers in danger! However, others came up and thanked her. None of us will ever truly know what these heroes went through when they came in every day, endangering their own lives because of COVID-19, trying to have their families taken care of and worrying about the patients.

Recently, a nurse told me she had transferred from the COVID-19 floor to the infusion floor. She was humble as she said that she was grateful for the experience of working there serving COVID-19 patients, but also enjoyed the challenges of working with patients who needed chemotherapy and other treatments.

One day, I entered the floor distracted and upset because of some additional health issues. A nurse took one look at me and asked what was wrong, put me in a private cubicle and talked to me. I asked her how she knew something was upsetting me and she said my eyes above the mask told her.

Because I am profoundly deaf, I need the nurses to wear special masks so I can lip-read and they do it no matter how busy they are. Their patience is boundless.

I am also fortunate to be on the patient advisory committee at my cancer center. I have had a chance to work with the administration and nurses there. I observe these supervisors putting in long hours, weekends and evenings to sponsor meetings and benefits to assist with building a new cancer center.

These nurses have become an integral part of my life and I am truly appreciative.I could never get through this horrible disease without their support, both physically and mentally. How could I nominate just one?I would love to nominate every single one of these fantastic people who are my angels on earth.

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