My Oncology Nursing Career Helped Me Care for My Mother

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I’m grateful for my medical background and how it helped me care for my mom after her cancer diagnosis.

oncology nurse holding a patient's hand

My background in oncology nursing helped me make difficult decisions regarding my mother's cancer care.

I am an oncology nurse and lost my mother to cancer of an unknown primary.

The most important thing I could share about this experience is that after 15 years dedicated to oncology and doing my best taking care of my patients, I was able to offer the best of myself and the knowledge I obtained to my mother.

The greatest gain of this learning was knowing that given the severity of my mother’s disease, I knew the moment when we should let her rest.

I am grateful for having given my best all these years, and my mother was lucky to have such competent and loving professionals taking care of her.

My mother started having neck pain, which we thought could be just tension. Still, we decided to investigate, and so we discovered that it was a bone metastasis.

We had a short period of time to find out what really happened to her. We tried to do the exams quickly. The PET/CT scans had shown disease in the lung, throughout the spine, pelvis, scapula (shoulder blade), humeri (bone of the upper forearm), femur, adrenal gland, liver, multiple lymph nodes, thyroid and left kidney.

Understanding the gravity of the images, when she started to get confused and short of breath, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

One month and 10 days after the first exam, my mother passed away.

On the day after her death, the biopsy report was inconclusive for detecting the primary tumor.

My mother was a woman full of life. She performed in theater and traveled with her friends. But when she was in that hospital bed, she became unrecognizable. I spent nights giving my best care, worrying about improving her pain control, getting her to sleep completely at night — small things that are essential for patients with cancer and that make a big difference in their quality of life. I cared about what really mattered to her, as I always did for my patients.

In fact, in my practice, I always ask the question: What matters to you? Because on a day that may be common for clinicians, for the patient, being able to sleep, breathe better or just being more comfortable in bed counts a lot.

My mother was at that point that I spoke to the team to discuss the need for sedation, because I knew the appropriate applicability of palliative sedation and how much it would benefit my mother, who was currently experiencing a high level of suffering. It all happened very quickly, but if I hadn't had the experience I had as an oncology nurse, I wouldn't have been able to make the decision.

When I was having doubts about palliative sedation, she had a heart attack.

And so she rested. A little over a month after the first diagnosis, she went in peace.

It’s wonderful that I was able to dedicate myself these years to my patients and I hope that I always maintain this humanistic empathy, seeing the real person who in need of care — a person who has family, friends, feels pain, wants to sleep completely for a night and feel pleasure in eating a meal, and who also dreams of living a better life.

This post was written and submitted by Luciana Lopes Manfredini. The article reflects the views of Manfredini and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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