My Oncology Nurse

Posted on: June 19th, 2015 by
10

“I’m quitting chemo,” I said, halfway through my treatments.
“Are you looking for someone to tell you not to quit?”
“No, I’m done.”
“Well, I’m telling you that you are not quitting chemo.”

***
This phone conversation took place between me and my oncology nurse Ann a day after I returned from the hospital. I had been rushed to the emergency room because of a high fever and constant vomiting.

I felt like shit.

Frightened, I decided to stop chemotherapy and just take my chances. I wanted to stop the treatments, for I believed they would kill me.

Ann had found out about my having been in ER, so she called me right away to see how I was. It turned out that she also knocked me into compliance and possibly saved my life. Even when I was ready to throw in the towel and give up, she refused to give up on me.

We hear so much about doctors saving our lives, and that is true. But the unsung heroes are often the oncology nurses.

***

Ann was a light during the darkest time of my life.

This special nurse treated me with the utmost respect and kindness.

And she was human. She admitted to me she was dyslexic, which made her pay careful attention to what medications she was administering. At first, her dyslexia made me nervous, as I was scared I would get the wrong chemicals. So I kindly asked her each time what chemical was about to go into my veins. She knew what I was doing, but she didn’t seem to mind. Each time she would patiently tell me what she was administering.

She didn’t just administer, but she ministered to my spirit.

Oncology nurses are incredibly busy — running from patient to patient and having administrative duties.

So many patients were in the chemo area with their families and friends, but I went to my chemo appointments alone. I was afraid, like so many patients, but I was also alone and hurt. The loneliness was hard to bear, especially watching people receiving chemo while their family members loyally sat by their side.

It seemed I was the only one who was alone during my half-day treatments. Getting chemo alone gives one a lot of time to think. And I would often think of life and of death. If I was lucky, I shared a chemo room with someone who would talk with me or whose family member(s) would get me something to drink.

But I usually didn’t talk to anyone.

I was scared and alone.

Ann saw this, so she spent hours with me, talking about her kids and fun topics. Sure, she had to leave occasionally to tend to other patients, but she always returned with, “So, as I was sayin’…” She got me to smile, then laugh. She would crack jokes and talk about her daily trials and tribulations.

Hearing about her life took my mind off how miserable mine was.

She always hugged me and made me feel loved, special, and important — at a time when I usually felt otherwise. I loved seeing Ann, and she was my anchor throughout chemotherapy.

One time, Ann was on vacation, so I had a different oncology nurse, who was super nice to me as well. This substitute nurse gave me a card from Ann. In the blank card was a note about how special I was and how much Ann missed me. It brought me to tears, but this time, they weren’t tears of sorrow and anguish, but of happiness.

During one of my chemotherapy treatments, I shared a room with a woman who had quit chemo halfway through her treatment. Unfortunately, she had a recurrence and was back. This made me so sad.

“I’m quitting chemo.”
“Are you looking for someone to tell you not to quit?”
“No, I’m done.”
“Well, I’m telling you that you are not quitting chemo.”

And I didn’t quit.

I’m so grateful to Ann for keeping me on my treatment course and helping me do everything possible to keep cancer away. She forever has a special place in my heart for making sure I had a special place in hers.

Candle

Did you have a special nurse or encounter with a nurse? I would love to hear about your experience(s).


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10 Responses to My Oncology Nurse

  1. Jo had this to say about that:

    What a wonderful tribute to your friend! I am so glad you continued on your course of treatment!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Jo. I am so glad that I continued treatment. It’s interesting that you call Ann my friend. I never thought about this until you mentioned it. She was/is a special friend I will always love.

  2. Rebecca had this to say about that:

    Beth, I enjoyed reading this post about your nurse. I agree with you, nurses have a tough job and they do so much for the patients.

    I am sorry you were alone during treatments. If I lived close to you, I would have kept you company. It is very lonely in the chemo room even when there are others getting treated. We have too many thoughts.

    I had a wonderful nurse. She was my surgeon’s nurse. Extremely efficient and wonderful. She made all the phone calls for me to get my report from the other hospital and my pathology slides while I was too busy shaking. She stayed with me the entire time and held my hand. I miss seeing her face.

    I wonder if you can submit an article to the publication “Cure” for the chance to win a trip. If you win, you’ll get to go with someone of your choice and Ann gets to bring someone too. I believe they stat taking submissions in March or April? Give it a try!

    I have a lot of respect for some nurses (not all are as great as Ann and the one I had). They really have a hard job.

    So glad you had Ann to support you during such a difficult time. I am also happy you did not give up. xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Rebecca,

      You are awfully nice, and I would’ve loved your company! You are right: the chemo room is very lonely in general. I’m so glad you had a great nurse who worked behind the scenes on your behalf.

      Nurses are amazing; they work so hard. I know not all are as good as the ones we had, so we were lucky in that respect.

      I’ve wanted to write for “Cure” for some time. I’ve been short of time lately, but I will check out that chance to win a trip. Thank you for the heads-up, and thank you for your comment!

  3. Carol had this to say about that:

    Dear Beth, You are courageous and Ann is a gem. Your story brought back such poignant memories for me. It is my story of a Nurse and her daughter. They were the inspiration for me to return to college and become a Registered Nurse:
    Back in my day, they were called: “Candy- Stripers.” I am incognizant of the name’s origin. Perhaps because of the pink and white pinafores that they wore resembled peppermint candy. I don’t know. Candy-Stripers were young adolescent girls who volunteered in the hospitals.
    In the loneliness of a busy Burn Center, my astute Nurse surmised that my critically burned body was not my only problem. She feared that I was rolling with the tidal wave of depression. Hence, she allowed her daughter, a candy-striper, to come into the Burn Center and; “just talk with me.” The daughter was a miracle- worker. She was a typical fifteen year old and that was the perfect medicine for this depressed burn victim. The girl told me about her friends, her school, her cheer-leading. And, of course, she told me about her crush on a boy in her geometry class. How should she let him know that she thought he was cute? Should she sit next to him in class? And, if so, behind him or in front of him? And do I think he would like her new hair style? He seemed to like music more than sports…should she invite him to one of her cheer-leading events? These were important questions for her and she trusted ME, an ugly, debilitated burn victim, with my answers to her life’s questions. Yes, she NEEDED me. We became close. She made me smile again. Oh, I never discussed ‘our’ conversations with her mother, my nurse. It was ‘our’ personal bond. “The Candy-Striper and the Burn Victim; catching a little relief…

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Carol, thank you for your poignant comment. I read it several times, for it moved me so much. The nurse and daughter who entered your life at a major crisis point were blessings, true heroes.

      I think it helps to help others when we are at our lowest point. It takes our minds off ourselves.

      This candy striper sounds like she needed your help, and you have made a huge impact on her, I’m sure.

      What a wonderful bond. Thank you for sharing this special story.

  4. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    What a wonderful oncology nurse you had there in Ann. Nurses in general are miracle workers. I had mostly wonderful nurses, although I did have two not so great experiences with nurses during treatment. Dear hubby still talks about one oncology nurse who always asked him how he was doing. He appreciated that so much and it’s a little reminder that not only do oncology nurses have an impact on their patients, sometimes they also make a huge difference for the caregivers of those patients. Thanks for sharing about Ann. Nice post.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thanks, Nancy, for your comment and for pointing out that our loved ones need to be asked how they are faring, too.

      It is tough to be a caregiver, and I’m sure your husband so appreciated that oncology nurse’s concern about his welfare.

      I agree that nurses are miracle workers.

  5. Eileen@womaninthehat had this to say about that:

    What a wonderful story. I’m so glad you had Ann as your nurse. I also liked my chemo nurse very much. She could be tough, but I came to learn how much she genuinely cared.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Eileen! Yes, oncology nurses can surely be tough, but sometimes that’s what is needed. I’m glad you had a great chemo nurse. I am in awe of all nurses, especially those who work in oncology.

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