I remember the nurse – after the surgery where we learned the cancer had already spread – who brought blankets and pillows so I could sleep in the recliner next to Hubby’s hospital bed. Because I didn’t have the courage to go home and sleep alone in our bed that night.
And I remember how an oncology nurse sat beside Hubby during his first chemo infusion—knowing he was there for palliative care, that this would not be a cure for him—holding his hand, rubbing his arm as chemo began its drip, much like a mother would comfort a child. Which was oddly comforting to the patient’s wife, as well.
I remember the surgery prep nurses who joked, “You know we don’t offer frequent flyer miles, right?” when we walked into the outpatient surgery prep area too many times. Their good humor, their knowing our first names, somehow this brought a bit of soothing down-to-earthness during those uncertain times.
And of course I will never forget the compassionate hospice nurses who stood beside Hubby and me at the end of his life, who made Hubby’s transition out of this world as comfortable as possible. For him. And for me.
This quote from Vincent Van Gogh reminds me of the many nurses who interacted with us through Hubby’s cancer:
“Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.”
Oh, that we could we all have a profession and not just a paycheck; that we could all have a passion that affirms our calling. I suspect this is the case with most people who followed their hearts into nursing.
I don’t remember the names of all the nurses here in Bend, at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center.
But I do know they were the human touch, the medical translators; they softened the hospital stay, the bad news, the worse news.
Maya Angelou writes words that have proved to be true for this cancer caregiver and her husband patient:
“As a nurse we have the opportunity to heal the mind, soul, heart and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
May is Oncology Nursing Month. If you know some incredible oncology nurses—or nurses of any kind—why not send a card telling them what they meant to you at a time when the bottom was falling out of your world.
Marlys was the care giver of her husband Gary who lived ten years after being diagnosed with late stage prostate cancer. After his diagnosis, together they founded a non-profit called Cancer Adventures, sharing their story with groups across the country. After Gary’s death in 2014, Marlys has continued to share the underlying theme of her and her husband’s story: How challenges are a part of life but you have choices. She has a passion for helping people navigate life’s challenges, having negotiated a few herself.