A topic that is near and dear to my heart. In case you didn’t know, nurses are the backbone to every healthcare system; without them, nothing would get done (maybe I’m biased, but I’ve seen how they work). This doesn’t mean that the doctors and physician’s assistants and physical therapists and technicians and whoever else aren’t crucial members of the team, and trust me I love my doctor and PA. But the nurses are, hands down, the MVPs.
After the last treatment, which consisted of six hours of traffic in and out of the city and waiting hours to actually start chemo, we were less than enthused to be here. We got to the hospital at 8:00 am (an hour and a half early) and were told that the nurses don’t start until 9:00 am, so I would wait to have my blood drawn. However, before even taking my coat off, out comes my favorite nurse, ready to take my blood and get the ball rolling. She said she saw my name on the list today and ensured me that this Tuesday would not be like the last.
Judy has been my go-to since the beginning. My first day, the nurse struggled accessing my port (she was great, but ports can be finicky), leading me to become frustrated and upset and cry. In came Judy, my knight in shining blue and white scrubs. She calmed me down and got it on the first try. Since then, we have bonded. My second chemo, I had told my doctor I was having trouble sleeping, so she had a social worker come talk to me to discuss support groups and other things I wasn’t really interested in. I listened as she talked, expressing that I had experienced weeks, that turned into months, of sleepless nights after my dad passed. And once again, Judy swooped in to save the day. After the social worker left, Judy and I chatted. Her father had passed in her early 20’s and after she went to work at refugee camps in Somalia. We bonded over these experiences. I had a hard time sharing with my doctor that I hadn’t been sleeping much, I felt almost embarrassed, and honestly kind of weak. Judy said “well of course you’re not sleeping, you have a lot on your plate.” And she was right. She justified it for me, made me feel ok about how I was handling my stress and anxiety and fear, and even a year and a half later, grief. And while my doctor can provide me with comforting words after the result of a scan, my nurse provides me with comfort about the every day worries.
Judy knows that I had to hold back my laughter the time a woman came to meditate with me, my mom, and my aunt during a treatment. She knows that I run and do yoga. She knows that when she pushes the saline solution through my port, I want to vomit. She complimented a sweater I wore one day and she went to search the Gap to find it. Later, I realized the sweater was from Forever21, so I felt bad that she wasted a day searching for it (oops). I repaid her by gifting her the sweater for Christmas this year (she loved it). Maybe we like her so much because of her Irish heritage and her brogue. Or maybe it’s just because she’s a kick ass nurse. But, most likely, it’s both.
And it’s not just the chemo nurses who have touched my life. The nurses I met the day of my biopsy have stuck with me since. The morning of my biopsy was actually kinda fun. The nurses were curious about the job I was suppose to start in a mere two weeks, they asked about my schooling and studying for my boards. I don’t like talking about myself, but they were so interested in what I had to say. One nurse would come in, then another, and another, all asking me different questions. They made me forget about the fact that I was about to be put under to have a procedure that would determine if I had cancer or not. And when the doctor told me the results the minute I woke up from my anesthesia-induced slumber, the nurses were there, once again, to comfort me. A couple weeks later when I came back to get my port placed, the same nurses I met weeks before came to hug me and talk with me. One of the nurse’s daughters had gotten a job at NYU, on the floor I had to defer my offer from. A bittersweet feeling, knowing she probably took my position, but also knowing that if she was anything like her mother, she was going to be great. And that was something I could live with. They greeted me as I was wheeled into the post-op room. And they cried for me, and for my mom, as I was wheeled out of the hospital.
The nurses in my life don’t stop there. The professors and clinical instructors I had at school who have become people I can look up to and turn to. They have shown me what the type of nurse is that I aspire to be. My mom’s friends who are nurses who sent me words of encouragement throughout college and continue to support me through this. My Aunt Pat, who comes to every chemo appointment she can, who makes me all different kinds of soups, who would drop everything to help someone in need. My friends who are nurses, who I have shared study rooms and complained about schoolwork with, who I can live vicariously through until I start my own job.
I have been on both sides: the patient and the nurse. And while I would rather be the nurse any day of the week, I am happy that while being the patient, I have been surrounded by nurses who have changed my life. I can only hope to be a nurse like them: someone who is a shoulder to lean on, who understands, who listens, who laughs, and who gets the job done.
It’s been a strange transition. I’m supposed to be administering medications. I’m supposed to be working 12 hour night shifts. I’m supposed to be wearing the scrubs. I even interviewed at this hospital, which made it all the more difficult in the beginning. But I have accepted that it’s not my time yet. I have my whole life to be someone else’s nurse, so for now, I’ll let someone be mine.
I hope that if you ever need a nurse (god forbid), you find one that’s like Judy, or me, duh. Jk.
So today was a good Tuesday (good is relative, chemo is not good, but the process was). There wasn’t any waiting around like the last couple of times. We were out before 12:30. I had cardiac and lung tests last week and everything came back normal. My counts weren’t low this week, so no neupogen shots, which makes me want to dance. And I am officially more than half way done with this bull shit. It’s a damn Christmas miracle.
Happy Tuesday. Happy Holidays. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Kwanzaa. Merry Christmas. Feliz Navidad. Happy Festivus. Whatever it is you celebrate, be happy.