My Heroes: A Cancer Story

7 years ago

For many years I worked in oncology nursing in the hospital setting.  I consider that time the most difficult of my career, yet the most rewarding.  I consider it an absolute privilege to have worked with patients suffering from cancer.  They did suffer too.  Most of my patients were very ill.  Most of them died from their disease.  I was there to see many of them die.  They left a mark on me, but not a scar.  They blessed me to the deepest part of my soul with their beauty, their grace, and their strength. They left me inspired.

I still think about many of those people and their families.  They touched me so deeply.  I just carry them around in a little pocket in my heart.  I am so glad that I had an opportunity to help them in some small way because they helped me in some really big ways.   They taught me about complete and utter honesty and they taught me about hope.  I just wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

I think about Sally.  Sally had Leukemia.  I really loved her.  She was stylin', beautiful.  She had an amazing family.  She was full of life.  I walked into her room at 5am one morning.  She was sitting on the edge of the bed, all alone, and weeping.  I sat down next to her and put my arms around her.  We cried together for a few minutes.  Then she sat up, squared her shoulders, literally, and said "There, that is my pity party for the day.  Now I am ready for some coffee." She was so strong.

I remember Mr. N.  He also had leukemia.  He was very sick.  He was vomiting, his stools were just large amounts of dark red blood.  He was extremely weak and needed a lot of help.  I was helping him back to bed from the commode and he looked at me and said "...is this really worth it?"  I said "There is always hope."  He died 2 days later but he never gave up.  His family remembered his strength and how hard he fought for them. I loved him.

Mr. S.  made me cry for days and still brings tears to my eyes.   I was working night shift.  He had lung cancer and was short of breath.  He couldn't control his bowels and he was so sick.  I cleaned him up several times during the night.  He was a very proud Irish guy and he was ashamed.  I just kept reassuring him and treated it as if it was no big deal, even though my heart was breaking for him.  When my shift ended the next morning I went to check on him and let him know another nurse would be coming in.  He grabbed my hand and said "Please don't leave me".  But, you know, I had to go.  My husband had to go to work and my kids needed to get off to school.  I had responsibilities.  I left him in good hands but I wish I had stayed with him.  I wish it still. I will never walk away again if someone asks me to stay.

Mr. S. died later that day with his daughter at his side.  Praise God.

There are many more experiences, too many to cite here.  Some are happy stories, some funny and some sad stories; but, I found these people to be nothing short of inspiring.  They faced a great enemy with full armor and I am so blessed to have witnessed their fight.  They are my heroes.

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