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An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring MASSEY NEMATOLLAHI, RN, M.SC.N., OCN, CON(C) [CLINICAL COORDINATOR, ONCOLOGY CLINICAL TRIALS, ADJUNCT CLINICAL APPOINTEE, LAWRENCE S. BLOOMBERG FACULTY OF NURSING — UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, STRONACH REGIONAL CANCER CENTRE AT SOUTHLAKE, NEWMARKET, ONTARIO, CANADA]
Kalia Douglas-Micallefand Massey Nematollahi, RN,M.Sc.N., OCN, CON(c)PHOTOS BY KATIA TAYLOR
In July 2007, my mother, Gabriella Micallef, was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer a month before my 11th birthday. My mother’s first encounter with the oncology team was not a positive one. The nonchalance in their tone of voice when diagnosing a patient was beyond discouraging. One gets diagnosed and is handed a prognosis that seems like a death sentence, and is asked to wait. The lack of compassion and empathy from many of the staff in hospitals infuriated my mother, and never failed to surprise me. And then we met Massey Nematollahi. Having Massey as my mother’s nurse restored my faith in medicine — and humanity.
I can recall some of the earlier times in my mother’s cancer journey. One time, my mom came back from a run, and to her surprise, there was a bouquet of flowers waiting for her. She was touched to see that they were sent by Massey. Even at the tender age of 11, I was well aware of the impact that Massey had on my mother, my family and me. Shortly after, I sent her an email thanking her for everything she was doing and had done for my mom.
Being a child in this situation, it’s easy to feel left in the corner, overlooked as everyone rallies around the person who is ill. I sometimes felt like this. However, Massey never, not once, made me feel unseen or unheard. She is a voice for the unheard and a shoulder for the weak. I felt warm in her presence and, unfortunately, this is often extremely rare for many patients.
Massey provided safety, reassurance and knowledge through her natural nurturance. I strongly believe that this is a core component to working in any field, especially medicine. This helped create trust and honesty, which betters the relationship, and ultimately the journey itself. Patients need to feel safe in order to be willing to follow medical advice and get their needs met. Massey has demonstrated greatness through qualities that fail to emanate from so many. It’s truly a shame that there are not enough people like her in this field, and in this world.
My mother passed away five years ago, and Massey has continued to enrich my life through her kindness and thoughtfulness. The long-lasting impact she made on my mother’s life — and continues to make on mine — is a perfect portrayal of her character. Massey never stops thinking about her patients and their families. She goes the extra mile to comfort her patients and satisfy their needs, and I can assure you that this is uncommon. Massey is a rare gem and a blessing to my life. It is an honor to know her. This is an emotional tribute. There are not enough words to express my love for her, and I can’t think of anyone else who deserves to have her efforts and success recognized and honored more than Massey. I am so thankful and forever grateful to her.