The Divine Touch of an Oncology Nurse Lends Compassion and Healing to Patients With Cancer

Extraordinary Healer®, CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Vol. 16, Volume 16,

I am forever grateful that my life has been blessed and touched by this angel on earth.

Rebecca Crane-Okada, Ph.D., RN, CNS, AOCN, is a rare blend of a doctorally prepared clinician, educator, author, researcher, leader and patient advocate. A consummate oncology nurse committed to her specialty for nearly four decades, she has touched the lives of countless patients, families, students, interdisciplinary colleagues and lay public through her education, research and clinical encounters.

Becky led early specialty initiatives in psychosocial support, integration of complementary therapies into cancer care, clinical nurse specialist interventions and patient navigation.

What has distinguished her are her listening skills, clinical expertise, critical thinking and holistic orientation to the care she continues to provide to this day. This total person-centered nursing includes her integration of mindfulness, exercise, yoga, spiritual direction, journaling, Reiki and nutrition support, all of which are interventions critically important to patients striving for personal mastery within their cancer experience.

As an oncology nurse who practiced in the same city as Becky, I witnessed her compassion, heartfelt presence and insight. But in 2007, when I received simultaneous diagnoses of ovarian and breast cancer, my colleague became one of my guardian angels. It is difficult to walk the path of both oncology nurse and a patient with cancer.

This experience propels you into a familiar journey where you have been the healer, yet as the patient your fears are compounded by what you know about the challenges ahead. I was overwhelmed and frightened but even the best of those on my oncology team had difficulty delving into my deepest fears. No one asked the hard questions I needed so desperately to discuss: disfigurement, sexuality, my career, mortality.

No one but Becky. It was her gentle manner, patience and wisdom to understand without me having to question that fostered my recovery. She caught my tears as she stood by me through surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. She was there for me when I received my second diagnosis of breast cancer, when I opened my eyes in the recovery room, when I fumbled with the surgical bra as tears flowed down my cheeks.

I am forever grateful that my life has been blessed and touched by this angel on earth. She never tires of reaching out, supporting, holding up and walking with those in need. Her gifts of love and presence have made me a better person, better friend and better oncology nurse. Once you are touched by Becky, her spirit walks with you forever.

In 2016, I received a diagnosis of endometrial cancer. Although my doctors were wonderful, it was Becky who was the face, the voice, that got me through my surgery, radiation and recovery. She literally held my hand and talked me through episodes of anxiety, panic and depression. I met with her repeatedly to learn relaxation techniques and guided meditation. The unique blend of her voice, her touch, her spirit and her presence are a gift I had never experienced before nor have I since. I will never forget what she did for me and the gift of nurturance she brought into my life when I needed it most.

For these reasons, I wish to acknowledge Rebecca Crane-Okada as the very best oncology nursing has to offer to patients, to the medical community and to humanity at large. Becky was my personal lifesaver, and I will forever be grateful for her presence in my life.

A year ago, I was being passed from one procedure and one doctor to another to be analyzed and showered with vocabulary that was frightening, incomprehensible and spelled death. As I sat in the waiting room, the feeling was terror, and the setting was quiet — too quiet. Everyone was there for the same reason. The diagnosis was fatal, even if people tried to tell me otherwise. And I was alone, even though my husband was with me.

A woman walked out and called my name. It was my first encounter with Becky. I wish I could remember her words in the first five minutes, but I can’t; it was like a haze. I can only recall that when she first spoke with me, she seemed to know the deeper questions behind everything I said. She didn’t counter my distrust of everything medical, invasive or radioactive.

She didn’t skip over my spiritual beliefs or my grief and guilt for having caused this disease in my poor breasts.

I could let my guard down with Becky, tell her things I couldn’t tell anyone, not even my close friends or husband. For the first time in my life, I felt listened to and heard by a medical professional. I felt safe in the hands of an intelligent, authentic and accomplished woman who had been there before with others like me. Becky’s counsel offered me the hope that I had some dominion over my life. One year later, I am even more appreciative of Becky’s compassionate care of my mind, my heart and my soul. Others have not been as fortunate as I to find someone who was a kind and loving midwife birthing a new chapter in my life.

In conclusion, this prestigious award is given to an exemplary oncology nurse who offers hope, fosters healing and demonstrates compassion, all in tandem with having outstanding clinical oncology nursing expertise. On behalf of Becky Crane-Okada’s patients and myself, we highly endorse her for the 2022 Extraordinary Healer® Award as a way to recognize her enduring legacy of excellence.

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