The Gift of a Question in Cancer Care

Debbie Scoles, RN, has been a source of strength and hope for patients wit hcancer and colleagues alike.

Debbie Scoles, RN, has been a source of strength and hope for patients and colleagues alike. We have all weathered the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways, and through it all she has always shown courage, grace and good cheer. I would like to share a short anecdote of my interaction with Debbie from a few months ago. However, I would note that this is just one of the many ways I have drawn strength from her as a person and as an oncology caregiver.

We had a beautiful patient (let’s call her Ms. Pea) who was devastated about being admitted to the hospital. Debbie was there to comfort our patient, advocate for her, make sure that even if she had to stay in the hospital with limited visitors that she was among friends who cared for her. On Ms. Pea’s discharge day, of course, we were all elated. Debbie saw me walking in the hallway and told me, “Rheza, Ms. Pea wanted to know how your crocheting is going.” I had mentioned previously to Ms. Pea that I wanted to make those cute, crocheted animals like the ones she created during her hospitalization. Ms. Pea had encouraged me throughout our different interactions, but I had never just sat down to make one. I would tell myself I was too tired, too busy, too whatever — I always had an excuse. Now, as nurses, we always find ways to help other people at the expense of ourselves. Self-care seems to be the last thing on our minds, even though it is one of the most important gifts we could give ourselves to keep on giving to others. Anyway, I started on my usual excuses as an answer to Debbie’s question and she said, “Well, just don’t give up!” That day was an extra difficult day, and her words affected me so that I resolved to just do it.

So I did. I made a complicated peacock for my friend and peas in the pod for my husband with little miniature peas of me, him and our dog inside the pod. These took me more than 24 hours to make (spanned over time, of course) and ended up being Christmas gifts. Anyway, I was proud of myself and the people close to me were delighted to receive personalized gifts.

Recently, Ms. Pea again was admitted to the hospital, and when I heard of that, I thought to myself, “I’m going to have to show her my finished projects because she would be so proud of me.” Unfortunately, Ms. Pea passed away before I could do that. Needless to say, I was devastated. She was such a beautiful, radiant soul. I am strengthened by our previous interactions and am privileged to have known and cared for her.

I suppose this is really a love note to Debbie and the beautiful Ms. Pea for encouraging me to care for myself, to focus on what is important and to treasure the time we have with the people in our lives while we have them. Thank you, Debbie. Thank you, Ms. Pea.

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