"I do not know how I would have gotten through my (cancer) diagnosis, treatment and recovery without … my amazing oncology nurse, my sister."
By: Mary Guevara
In November 2020, at age 35, I received a diagnosis of stage 3 anal cancer, which came as a complete shock, a complete nightmare, a complete fear. As a mom of two little girls, a fifth-grade elementary school teacher and a wife, I feared my future and a possible untimely death.
Upon receiving my news, my world completely stopped. I have never felt fear the way I did that day. What happens now? What do I do? Will I survive? Who should I call?
My first phone call: Donna Olewniczak, B.S.N., RN, CMSRN, my sister and a gastrointestinal oncology nurse at our local, world-renowned cancer hospital. She would be one of my nurses, my caregiver, but first and foremost she was still my sister. I never could have walked the journey of cancer without her. She scheduled my appointments, drove me to radiation on Fridays, met me at every appointment, checked on me, shopped for me and took care of me outside of the hospital.
Through the nightmare of watching her sister fight for her life, she never let me see her cry. She never made me think I was a burden and never let me see how tired she was too. Yet I know how difficult it must have been for her. I called her almost every day with questions, fears or to simply just “cry it out.”
She had so much compassion and patience with me. She always answered the phone, even at the craziest hours, and answered my (sometimes bizarre) questions. If she didn’t have the answers, she always found someone who did.
I was blessed that she was with me the day they finally were able to tell me that there was no sign of disease after enduring 30 rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. She deserved that news and that moment just as much as I did. She fought for me and with me and kept me going when things felt impossible. I always joke that I was the patient she never wanted, the patient she never could have dreamed would walk through her clinic door.
I do not know how I would have gotten through my diagnosis, treatment and recovery without her. She truly is the definition of an extraordinary nurse. I am lucky to call my amazing oncology nurse, my sister.
For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.