My Encourager

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 8, Volume 14, Issue 1

"WHO CAN TURN THE WORLD ON WITH HER SMILE?" Not Mary Tyler Moore, but instead my oncology nurse, Leslie Bainbridge of Arizona Oncology.

“WHO CAN TURN THE WORLD ON WITH HER SMILE?” Not Mary Tyler Moore, but instead my oncology nurse, Leslie Bainbridge of Arizona Oncology. My first introduction to Leslie was about 30 days after a grueling four-hour debulking surgery for stage 3c primary peritoneal carcinoma.

I WAS FEELING EXTREMELY VULNERABLE and still a bit confused when I first met Leslie, who was to be my chemotherapy nurse. She would be the person I would see weekly to mix and administer all of my chemotherapy medications. The only thing about that first meeting I remember through the haze is asking Leslie if she thought she could handle my case. Without pausing, she very confidently explained to me that she would take extremely good care of me and that we were on this journey together. I remember her speaking to me as though I were an old friend. Her eyes were warm and her smile was ever present as she explained how the medications would work and that I could definitely “do this” and get through these treatments.

Another time I remember laughing with her was when I first spied the chemo room. It was decked out with positive words on posters and little signs. There were many “Girl Power” inspiring words in every nook and cranny of that room. Another time I came into the chemo room and Leslie had redecorated it to look as though we were at the islands. There were leis and silk flowers draped everywhere. She wanted her chemo receivers to feel as though we were somewhere else during our four- to six-hour chemo treatments. Leslie Bainbridge became my sparkling cheerleader and never-ending encourager.

Who really wants to keep a chemotherapy appointment anyway? I found that during the first four months, and even now as I am in my first recurrence, my answer to that question is an emphatic me. Seeing Leslie every week was where I would discover a wealth of information, as well as uncover laughter and the strength to keep going with my treatments. Leslie could even make a comedy act out of checking my birthday against what my medications read: “Oh, it hasn’t changed since the last time you were here, good deal!”

To be embraced with a hug and a huge smile and Leslie’s happy attitude can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary day. She always makes me feel as though I am an integral part of her day and not just another patient on her list to care for. She is totally familiar with my case, and if I have a question she can’t answer, she will research it to find the best solution. This was true when a pharmacist expressed concern about a chemotherapy medication reacting to one of my regular daily medications. Leslie found a specialist who solved the dilemma for us, thus easing a very stressful situation for me. Leslie never gives up, but instead uses many resources to enhance the care she gives to me.

This teamwork makes me want to fight and continue on to get rid of this cancer. I don’t want to let Leslie down; she gives me her all and the least I can do is keep fighting in return. She is my inspiration to do just that.

I have personally observed Leslie dealing compassionately with a young woman receiving end-of-life care. I watched as this woman was guided through the door of the chemo room. Leslie’s face lit up calling to her like an old friend. After hugs and laughter, I saw as Leslie’s skilled hands virtually flew while meeting needs as she calmed the young woman with a warm blanket and soothing and encouraging words. She makes all of us calmer, while her kind words of cheer and praise enable us to feel like conquerors. Leslie compels me to believe I am a peer when I am with her and not just another cancer patient fighting for her life. While she administers the medications, she continually expresses hope that what she is giving to me might just be the ticket to kill this roguish cancer. I always perceive that Leslie is just as invested in my healing as I am.

What a delight it is to receive a personal email from Leslie, whether it is simply asking how I am doing or to give advice on foods that will make me feel better or help improve my low protein or potassium levels. Reading her words, I can almost see her effervescent personality linking healing and humor with caring. Her words shout out to me that she is on my side and she is cheering me on to a state of wellness.

When I am feeling insecure about where I stand in actively fighting this first recurrence of primary peritoneal carcinoma, it helps immeasurably to understand that Leslie has dealt with these recurrences before. She knows the different protocols that are available and can expertly explain each of them to me as well as their possible side effects. I truly appreciate that she keeps a trained eye on me and can spot anything potentially going wrong. I do not feel alone; I feel supported by Leslie in every step I take.

To sum up my relationship with my oncology nurse Leslie Bainbridge, I am happy to include the following: Leslie is passionate about seeing cancer eradicated in each of her patients. She grasps the banner of encouragement and gently drapes it over the shoulders of each chemotherapy recipient she comes in contact with. She is adamant that a sense of normalcy while living with cancer is a healthy and beneficial way to live. Leslie demonstrates this by making me feel like a welcome friend as I enter her domain and never like a cancer patient. She has added hope and joy to my life.

I could not even imagine traveling this journey without her.