MY FAVORITE NURSE, Susanne, is a model in courage and persistence.
MY FAVORITE NURSE, Susanne, is a model in courage and persistence. Good thing, because I am on the fifth year of treatment for breast cancer after developing stage 4 cancer. When I first met Susanne, I already had two surgeries, two recurrences, needle trauma and was very anxious about continuing treatment at all.
SHE WAS SO GOOD WITH ME, and from the first day, talked me through whatever process I had to undergo using guided imagery and reassurance. That first day, she turned my chair away from the busy infusion room, faced me toward a fountain and then asked me where I wanted to go scuba diving and made up an underwater fantasy to get my mind elsewhere while she deftly did her work. It was nothing short of amazing, considering what I had been through. On a previous blood draw, I had walked out (without getting the blood) after seven failed attempts by three different people. From then on, I called Susanne “the vein whisperer.”
Over the past five years, I have had blood draws almost every month, along with multiple shots in the belly and… um… elsewhere. I got to the point where if Susanne was unavailable when I arrived, I would simply reschedule for another day and go home! Once, she even arranged to come down to the MRI department to make sure that I had a smooth time with the IV insertion for the contrast dye. She was instrumental
in my deciding to get a port, which I had been afraid of, and then when the port also proved painful, she came up with a new protocol for accessing it, using specially arranged equipment (a SafeStep Huber Needle) and techniques to lessen the pain.
Recently, my oncologist moved his practice to another city, and when I told the new nurses about how Susanne accessed my port, they said they didn’t do that there. I now have all my blood work orders sent to Columbia Memorial instead, so I can continue with Susanne. It’s that important to me.
She is innovative and caring, and very thoughtful. She always remembers whatever I tell her about my life and family, hopes and fears, and inquires about them at each visit. She arranges hospital services of Reiki treatment, pet therapy and massage treatments for me. She also has experience as a hospice nurse, so she’s not afraid to talk with me about death and dying when that’s what is on my mind. It’s really amazing that I’ve come this far, outliving my original prognosis by double now, and how much a part of my journey Susanne has been.
My appointments with her have become comforting visits with a dear friend. We discuss our lives, children, parents, share diet and exercise tips, and tell each other of our travels. Once, when she was leaving for a few weeks to go to Finland to see her mother, I carefully arranged my injections to straddle her travel dates. On the visit prior to her departure, I knew I was getting two shots in the rear, so I had my husband write “bon voyage” with a marker across the injection site so she got a good laugh when I dropped my drawers!
And she’s always surprising me too. I still have to look away while she’s working, because I get queasy at the sight of blood, and I usually start humming something inane. Last week she chimed in, singing, in her native Finnish, a children’s song about a pig that had me laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes. Tears of gratitude, for sure, because without Susanne I don’t think I would have made it this far.
Susanne may not get as many nominations as other nurses in larger urban areas, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t make an exponential difference with the patients that come her way. We live in a town of 10,000 after all, and have a small hospital. Astoria didn’t even have a full-time oncologist until about a year ago. For me to be able to get this kind of care here, where I live, on a regular basis without having to travel, is extraordinarily helpful to me and healing in itself. She is my rock and helps me keep the faith that I can survive and thrive, no matter what the challenge.