An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring LAURA COSTA, M.S., RN, CMSRN, OCN [THE CANCER INSTITUTE AT ST. FRANCIS HOSPITAL, EAST HILLS, NEW YORK]
From left: Laura Costa, M.S., RN, CMSRN, OCN, and Daniela Maniscalchi - PHOTOS BY ELIZABETH SOWA
WHEN I WAS DIAGNOSED with cancer in March 2016, I remember thinking, “I can’t have cancer — I’m fit, I eat a healthy diet, and I’m only 40 years old!” The news was completely devastating. I had so many questions, so many concerns and so many thoughts running through my mind, not the least of which was “How am I going to get through this?”
On the first day of treatment, I entered the infusion center scared, worried and confused. I had no idea who was waiting to receive me on the other side of those doors. Trembling, I sat down and waited. In walked Laura Costa to greet me. Instantly, I felt a calm come over me. She was an immediate beam of light at a very dark moment in time for me. Laura’s warmth radiated out of her as she introduced herself to me and my family — and at that precise moment, I knew I was going to receive the most amazing care. From that first minute on, Laura became part of my family.
During this arduous time, I wanted to distract my thoughts and put my imagination and energy into something positive, happy and fun, even though I was terrified. So, when my journey started,I came up with the idea of having a festive theme for each of the upcoming 12 chemotherapy treatments. Laura was not only on board but also supportive and very encouraging. She participated in each theme and always, always had a smile on her face. Laura dressed for each occasion, and she never disappointed, whether getting dolled up in a fancy dress, long white gloves and sparkly jewelry for Prom Day or wearing tie-dyed clothing for That ’70s Week. She exhibited head-to-toe patriotic flair for Red, White and Blue Day, and participated with me when a feature reporter from Fox 5 New York arrived to cover that theme day in a segment for the night’s newscast.
She did all this gracefully and never missed a beat. Her heartfelt dedication to nursing was evident every time she cared for me — so much so that, even while she was recovering from a broken arm, she came in dressed for Pajama Day and did not miss my last chemo theme, Life Is a Circus. That day she came into the infusion center (talk about dedication!), put on a red clown nose and big clown glasses, posed with circus props, and helped me celebrate what was one of the most special days of my life. Laura probably didn’t realize how much and how many times she touched my heart, but I will be forever grateful to her.
Her compassion for her patients is truly felt in all that she does. Her gentle reminders to try to eat during treatments helped me combat the nausea. She explained to me in detail, each and every time, what medicines I was about to receive, no matter what treatment number I was on. Laura was never bothered by the thousands of questions I repeatedly asked at each session, thanks to my high anxiety. She was always caring, reassuring and nurturing. I always brought at least five family members with me on treatment days, and each of them felt a real connection with Laura, too. She was able to make us laugh and smile even during our hardest days.
I was fortunate enough to hear about Laura’s family. She spoke about her daughter’s upcoming wedding and shared stories and photos of her whole family with me. As my family is the most important thing to me, I loved that Laura was so willing to share her personal family life with me. I looked forward to hearing her stories, knowing how much she cared about her own family. Recently, I received a Christmas card from her with her grandson’s picture on it. So special!
Laura deserves to be recognized for everything she does to make her oncology patients feel comfortable, safe and cared for. Not a day goes by that I don’t think to myself how lucky I was to have had her extraordinary care during my journey. She is an exceptional nurse in a very special and difficult medical field. Her high level of skill is remarkable.
Laura’s compassion not only met my imagination but comforted me every step of the way, and I am very grateful, thankful and fortunate it did. I’m blessed that she entered my life when I needed her the most.