Making an Arduous Journey With Lymphoma Easier

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

An Extraordinary Healers essay honoring Veda Smith, RN [Larkin Hospital in Miami, Florida].

Alejandra Isabel Carasa with Veda Smith, RN (right) -- PHOTO BY CHELSEA ERWIN

MY NAME IS Alejandra Isabel Carasa, and I am of Cuban origin. I arrived in this country in 1967 with a suitcase filled with dreams, and like most immigrants, the desire to succeed.

My father, Mr. Heriberto Bermudez, was a registered nurse in Havana, Cuba. And this is why, in his memory, I would like to pay tribute to him by celebrating an exemplary nurse, Mrs. Veda Smith.

In 1999, I was diagnosed with T-cell cutaneous lymphoma. It has been 16 years since my diagnosis, for which I consider myself a survivor of this disease we know as cancer.

For the past 12 years, I have been treated by Dr. Francisco Kerdell, a dermatologist and expert in this condition. He travels all over the world giving seminars about this disease, also known as mycosis fungoides.

When I began my photopheresis treatment at the University of Miami Hospital, I was fortunate enough to meet Veda, one of the few nurses who specializes in this treatment. Veda is of Jamaican origin and has gained 50 years of experience in a variety of medical specialties in her native Jamaica and in the United States.

So why do I want to nominate Veda? I am 66 years old, and throughout my life I have met and dealt with many nurses. But Veda has stolen my heart thanks to her professionalism, compassion and sweetness. She is incredibly suited to tell me just the right words during the most painful moments. She is also very keen not to stick me with too many needles, given that these days my poor veins are quite damaged after 10 years of treatments, twice a month.

Veda is very detail oriented. She always takes the time to explain everything about my treatment. She studies my arms and veins to avoid painful mistakes. She even reprimands me if I haven’t drunk enough water. Her constant words of encouragement are critical to keeping my spirits up, especially when the days are long and hard.

In spite of my age, I continue to work as a television producer — work that creates constant stress in my life. But when it’s time for my treatment, Veda is my soothing salvation. She makes me feel secure and makes what is a long and arduous process tolerable, thanks to her kindness and thoughtfulness. She always makes sure that my meals and snacks are ready and that my bed sheets are clean, all while ensuring that the treatment is conducted efficiently and causes me the least amount of pain possible.

Veda has a wealth of experience and is loved by all of her colleagues. She is a mother of three, a grandmother of four and very active in her church. Her husband, also of Jamaican origin, has an electronics repair shop.

Why is Veda exemplary?

She loves her profession.

She has compassion for her patients.

She is dedicated to giving the best care possible.

She is an excellent nurse and expert in my treatment.

And frankly, without her, my treatment would not be nearly as effective for my health — and for my spirit.