On Nursing: All the Reasons Why

Cancer isn't something I ever expected in my life, nobody ever does. For me, it has changed my life in ways that I never would have expected.

The image that we conjure up in our minds of a nurse has been in transition for decades. As a societal whole, we still don't fully understand or appreciate the difference that nurses have made and continue to make. For example, many know the names Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. However, if you were to ask someone what these women did, most would not have a sufficient answer. These two women not only gave so much to the field of nursing, but to society. Clara Barton founded one of, if not the most recognizable charities in the world, The Red Cross. While Florence Nightingale is the founder of modern nursing as we know it today.

In the 1900’s many women were discouraged from being a nurse, because the profession wasn't considered "proper". Nursing wasn't a “calling”, or a vocation that one would make a serious commitment to. Then, during the first half of the 20th century, nurses were once again respected. They were hailed as heroines for their valiant efforts in a war time era. Most commonly today though, nursing is superficially portrayed on over the top dramas or sitcom comedies. Rarely are nurses seen in a realistic light. If they were, more people would choose the profession.

I got to see firsthand all that being a nurse encompasses when my sister got ill. Prior to Kat’s diagnosis, I knew that she was fairly ill. When she finally went to be seen in July 2014, she was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Saying that life after this has been an uphill battle is unjust, as I have never found a hill as seemingly insurmountable as this one.

Upon diagnosis, the prognosis was not good. We would begin treatments just five days later. She experienced anaphylactic shock with the first dose of ABVD. Eight doses later and it was found she had Bleomycin toxicity, causing grade 4 pneumonia. In January, refractory Hodgkin‘s set in, leading us to try for a bone marrow transplant only to be told she wasn‘t a viable candidate. In February, she battled a bout of Influenza Type B, followed by her first dose of DHAP. In March, she received her second dose of DHAP, causing a Cisplatin-induced Grand Mal Seizure. She then had acute kidney disease, which she continues to battle. Four infections later, she began the immunotherapy Brentuximab. Dose one brought full body rash. Dose two brought photo sensitivity. Dose three caused hives. Dose four caused neuropathic paralysis. Two months later, she was able to begin Nivolumab. Each dose brought a mild reaction, but she was able to sustain treatment. In November, we had our fifth bone marrow consult, and they said yes. On Jan. 14, she received an autologous stem cell transplant. The fight continues, as she now battles to stay in remission.

All the while, as the world spun too fast for us to find our footing, the nurses have held us steady. They were the only constant and our navigators of an unmapped road. They have been by my family’s side throughout, partaking in our journey of pain, grief and joy and walking beside us through all the valleys and peaks. The nurses were just as invested in the outcomes as we were.

Through tears, they bring laughter. Through pain, they bring joy. In the first week of my sister’s treatment, a nurse told me that “doctors cure and nurses care.” In that moment, I did not understand how true that statement was, but I do now. Doctors spend ten minutes by the bedside, and nurses spend countless hours. The bond they have with my sister is stronger than a doctor‘s, therefore their care is deeper. Seeing all of them and how they bring such a unique skillset with them is what makes me want to be a nurse.

I want to give the care that they have given my sister and have the privilege to be present at life’s most momentous events — from birth to death, from crisis to recovery. Every day brings a range of new situations. Nursing is a job where you get to meet thousands of people from every walk of life and see an incredible cross section of society, where no matter what, you fight against the odds to do what is right.

Few other professions give you the opportunities that are afforded to a nurse. To have a career where the decisions you make change and impact somebody’s life is so incredibly profound. Nurses work in a diverse environment filled with endless challenges. There is opportunity to learn something new each and every day and the learning only ends when you choose to stop paying attention.

In being a nurse, I will strive to do what all of the nurses I have encountered have done. Upon graduating, it is my goal, and would be an honor, to work alongside any of them. My main objective is to strive to obtain the superior excellence they all have. Knowing how strong, thoughtful, compassionate and caring that all of them are, I can’t see myself working in any other field of profession.

Cancer isn’t something I ever expected in my life, nobody does. But it happens. It has shaped my life in numerous ways, some of which are simply impossible to describe. I hope that in being an oncology nurse, I can help others fight the disease that has taken so much from so many. I want to make their journey just a little less unpredictable and strange, while making it just as memorable as all the nurses have made it for us.

While I don’t yet know where my journey will lead next, I do know that I’m excited to find out. Although I have chosen oncology nursing, I hope there comes a day when I have to chose a new field of nursing, because above being a nurse, it is my greatest hope that one day we live in a world without cancer.