An interview with Lynne Malestic, RN, winner of the Extraordinary Healer award.
Lynne Malestic can’t wait to go to work. Every day she wakes filled with joy that she will spend her day taking care of patients with cancer as an infusion nurse.
It’s not a response most people have to their job.
But Lynne isn’t most people. She brings to her patients a caring and calm that they cannot explain other than to say that when she is there, they are calm. She says that when she is with them, she is also calm.
Her ability to listen came in useful in her first career as a bartender, a job she held while getting her first nursing certification. There was never any question that she would be a nurse.
“Everyone called my mother Mother Teresa because she took care of everyone whether they were family or friends. I grew up helping to care for others.”
After completing her RN, she worked in obstetrics for 15 years until her best friend was diagnosed with colon cancer. “She was the one who kept pushing me to complete my RN,” Malestic says. “I went to the hospital with her for chemotherapy and was really excited to learn something new. She said that when I wasn’t there, it was much harder for her.”
After getting chemotherapy-certified, Malestic jumped right into oncology; her friends from obstetrics told her she would be back. She never considered it
Then her mother-in-law got cancer and Malestic and her husband moved her into their home.
“She had six daughters, but it was me she wanted — because my presence calmed her.”
It wasn’t long before an oncologist asked her to work for him, and, after some negotiation, she agreed. Today, she works five days a week taking care of her patients — even taking them into her home if need be.
“When I worked in obstetrics, I would take formula to new mothers I had gotten close to on weekends, and I really missed that involvement.”
Shortly after her mother-in-law died, Malestic came to know a couple who had no support outside the hospital. The wife had lung cancer, and Malestic gave them her phone number and told them to call if they needed anything. The next day the husband called and said that after his wife’s radiation, she could no longer climb the stairs to their apartment.
Malestic moved them into her home for two months until she could find ground-floor housing. They continued to be friends even after the wife died, and then when the husband developed cancer, he returned to Lynne’s home where he lived until he died 17 months later.
Malestic says she knows some might see such involvement as too much, but not for her or her family. Both her husband and daughter were involved in the couple’s care. Today, her daughter talks about being an oncology nurse.
“She wanted to be an oncologist until she did volunteer work and saw the doctors leave and the nurses continuing to work with the patients. That was when she decided it was nursing she wanted.”