My Incomparable Oncology Nurse, Lilia

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 10, Volume 10, Issue 1

An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Lilia Torres, LVN [ UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in Davis, California ]

Luke G. Conley III and Lilia Torres, LVN PHOTO BY MINDY NEWTON

My nomination for Extraordinary Healer is a nurse who is deserving of being described as more than extraordinary. That is because it takes more than just one descriptive term to accurately define Lilia Torres and the manner in which she performs her nursing duties. Words such as special, wonderful, outstanding, superb, extraordinary and accommodating come close, and all apply, but none of them alone completely describes Lilia. The wonder is that in spite of the super manner in which she performs her job, she doesn’t even wear a cape!

I have enjoyed the blessing of being treated at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center since February 2002. During the years that I have been kept alive and functioning, under the expert care of my hematologist/oncologist Dr. Michael Tanaka and the entire staff, it has been the extraordinary nursing care provided by Lilia, a member of that outstanding nursing staff, that has played such a large part in keeping me going.

While the consultations with the specialist, who is responsible for developing the treatment plan and prescribing the medications to extend life, are fairly infrequent, I see Lilia much more often. From the registered nurses, to the nurses who assist them, to the receptionists, to those drawing blood in the laboratory, and ultimately, to the extraordinary nurse, Lilia, who administers the twice-weekly injection that keeps me alive, functioning and able to smile, I owe my deep, profound, unabashed and immeasurable gratitude for helping me through my continuing battle with myelodysplastic syndrome.

It takes a great deal of effort to do what the staff at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center does. Faced with people such as me, living in fear of dying and in awful despair, all day, every day, it takes very special people who have the ability to handle and tolerate those in obvious distress. In dealing with patients experiencing that emotional turmoil, Lilia excels. Although her job of dealing with people like me who have been diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer has to be terribly stressful and emotionally trying, you would never know it from watching Lilia at work. In spite of the stresses of her job, Lilia always manages to deliver a cheerful greeting, an uplifting smile, a gentle reassuring touch to the arm and sometimes a comforting hug to those undergoing treatment.

The carefully administered injections of Lilia deserve very special mention and qualify her to be nominated and selected as the Extraordinary Healer. She is a most exceptional injection specialist. As she inserts the needle with the life-extending medication into my body, she does so with such expertise and gentleness that it truly is just a tiny “poke,” “prick” or “sting.” Lilia goes far out of her way to avoid inflicting pain. Lilia’s responsibilities in giving injections relieve the various registered nurses and nursing assistants of having to do it and frees them up to work more closely with the cancer center doctors administering patient care.

Lilia’s expertise is so valued and so helpful to all of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center doctors and registered nurses that if she misses a day or is otherwise unavailable, her absence reverberates throughout the facility and visibly affects those on the staff to whom she renders her invaluable assistance. She also makes it possible for her patients, including me, to look forward to being infused or injected with the syringes bearing lifesaving medications, chemicals and compounds. We actually welcome being “poked” by Lilia. I am fortunate to “have a life” and to be living the life that I enjoy. That is the reason that the medical care, especially the nursing care given to me by Lilia, is paramount in keeping up my hope and faith that I will recover, without remission, and that a cure will someday result from the efforts of all of those working toward that end.

Until that eventuality comes to pass, it is an honor and my good fortune to be her patient, and my privilege to nominate Lilia Torres as the Extraordinary Healer in the field of oncology. It is fitting because she is not only an extraordinary nurse, but is also a truly exceptional person.