Sharing Her Gifts and Talents: A Breast Cancer Survivor and Registered Nurse

July 4, 2019

In this essay, registered nurse Patricia Campbell of Charlene’s Dream in Daytona Beach, Florida, nominates her colleague and fellow registered nurse Eliani Berman for the 2019 CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Award.

She is salsa, fire, glamour, kindness and the Energizer Bunny all rolled into one perfectly coiffured package! Eliani Berman is a registered nurse and a breast cancer survivor. She has not worked actively as a nurse for several years, as she is an executive in her family’s successful business. She loves her work in the business world, but I am nominating her for the CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Award because of the work she does that feeds her heart: helping cancer survivors along their journey.

From left: Patricia Campbell, B.S.N., RN, and Eliani Berman, RN. Photos by Duane Van Horn.

Eliani sits on the governing board of the Florida nonprofit organization Charlene’s Dream, a grassroots community cancer resource center. It is a warm and welcoming haven for those with cancer who are seeking information. It is a resource center wrapped up to look like a boutique. It’s a place to try on wigs, hats, mastectomy bras, lymphedema sleeves and breast prostheses. It is a place where all patients with cancer can ask questions and get free help and assistance.

Charlene’s Dream is a 100 percent volunteer-run program. Our facilitators are oncology professionals, and many are cancer survivors themselves. We identified a need within our community. In the Daytona Beach, Florida, area, many patients are treated at different doctors’ practices. We found that sometimes those with cancer do not get enough information to help them cope with their disease effectively. Our goal was to supplement by providing more information and support for those affected by cancer.

Charlene’s Dream classes, support groups and special events for those affected by cancer are held in the evening, after the workday. The goal is to make all events fun and welcoming.

At first, Eliani came to meetings as a breast cancer survivor. The Girls’ Night Out support group was led by her mentor and former nurse navigator. Eliani wanted to become more involved, so she volunteered to help out any way she could. She looked around at a group of well-intentioned nurses and decided that if we were going to become a successful nonprofit, we could benefit by incorporating some of the lessons she had learned in the business world. She helped us organize, advertise, give interviews and raise donation money. We loved that Eliani took on the role of “wrangling” all of us, and we made her our official public relations director.

Since Eliani joined us, we have raised more money through donations and grants, and more patients are using our services as the word about us gets out into the community.

Still wanting to help patients individually, Eliani agreed to co-facilitate the arts therapy support group with an oncology nurse group co-leader. Their goal is to allow survivors to express themselves through art therapy — they realize that sometimes it is easier to talk with others when there is a nonthreatening task at hand. Eliani and her co-facilitator understand that sometimes hands that have experienced chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy may not be as deft and limber as “normal” hands, but the strength of that survivor to participate in class is enough to inspire anyone. Also, some of the projects made in class help survivors cope with their cancer. This warms Eliani’s heart. She uses her many gifts as an RN, a businessperson and a survivor to help others.

Eliani is a great reminder that we all have many gifts and talents to share with others. In these days when medical costs are so high and hospital budgets are so strained, it would behoove us to remember that those who may not work as a nurse every day in a conventional way can still use their gifts to benefit others by volunteering in the right way. When we think outside the box, perhaps that is when we are most creative and able to help others.


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