An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring RENEE THOMPSON, RN, OCN [ROSWELL PARK CANCER INSTITUTE, BUFFALO, NEW YORK]
Renee Thompson, RN, OCN, and Lydia Conroy PHOTOS BY TESSA CONNELLY
I go to Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Amherst Center every other Friday for my chemo. I am there for three hours and home with a pump for 46 hours after that. Needless to say, it’s a long day, long weekend and not something you always look forward to. As a patient with cancer, you have to celebrate the small victories. You never know how many you have left. That being said, birthdays are particularly memorable. Last year, I had chemo on my 30th birthday. Birthdays are always, or always should be, a big deal. And the “Dirty Thirty” is an even bigger deal. My friends all had bar crawls or crazy party weekends for theirs ... but not me. I would be at home with my husband, my puppy and my chemo pump having a cocktail of 5-fluorouracil instead of an amaretto sour. But Renee made me forget all that. She went through the trouble of starting her shift at 9 instead of her normal 8.
When Renee woke up, she headed to Wegmans to get me a small flower arrangement and a birthday cake with my name on it. (I had never had one of those before!) She chose a card that fit me perfectly (I am known as the “Queen of Amherst”), and had all of the staff sign it. It was absolutely incredible. I got to share my birthday with every patient there. I mean, really, who doesn’t love a piece of cake? No matter how nauseous you are, or how much Imodium you have taken that week, there is always cake! She made me forget all of the unpleasantness that day … she made me forget that I was sick, she made me forget that I was getting chemo, she made me forget that I wasn’t going to have an all-out bash like my friends. She made me feel like a princess that day. And she made me feel like more than just the number on my hospital ID card.
I know I’m making this sound more about me than about her, but it really is about Renee. And she’s like this for all of her patients. I’m just one of the lucky ones. I’m lucky to get sick, I’m lucky to be a Roswell patient, I’m lucky to be eligible for chemo at Amherst. I’m lucky for these reasons because they led me to Renee. She is the kindest, gentlest, most caring person I have ever met. So now, every Friday when I have to wake up at 6 a.m., two hours earlier than when I wake up for work, to get to Amherst on time, I wake up with a smile on my face. My feet hit the floor with the speed of Usain Bolt. I’m ready for chemo. I’m ready for the weekend. I’m ready to see my best friend ... because for the three hours I am there, she makes me forget ... and I love her for that.