On the Work So Far

I always thought I was a grateful person, but in the last two weeks I understood it on a whole new level. Tonight I completed my first two weeks as an oncology nurse. It’s been exhausting, gratifying, concerning, and tough, but it’s been good. It’s not all oncology, only about half the patients have cancer. The other half are a mixed bag of medical problems, often heart disease, COPD, diabetes, etc.

But the cancer patients, wow, the cancer patients. They are young, some close to my age. They were healthy. Runners, bikers, vegetarians, new moms. Last week, a month ago, 6 months ago, 5 years ago they found out they have cancer. Some don’t even know yet. They have cancer. I know, but it’s not my role to tell them. What do you do with that? What do I do with that… at the hospital, at home?

They come to me, some with their first or second round of chemo, some on their last with their livers’ and kidneys’ and hearts’ wrecked from the fight. I see them for a few hours, maybe a couple of days, of what will be the battle of their lifetime, their new identity, their new story, their last story, their survival story. There is no way to know right now which it will be.

Selfishly I wonder, where do I fit in this story. Will my passing through their journey be positive, helpful, encouraging, comforting, truthful? I guess this is my challenge.

4 thoughts on “On the Work So Far

  1. Comment is twofold. First, don't go to Chicago until May. We're I Lawrence until then! SecOnd, a personal thank you. The reason we're in Lawrence is because we've found out recently that Troys mom has stage 4 cancer. I wanted to let you know that the nurses are a HUGE part of how a cancerpatient views this experience. I know the role must be demanding and require a great deal of patience, but it means the world to these people to have a nurse who's compassionate and takes a few extra mins to just say hello. I totally get why you fit so well in this new career!

  2. Wow, D I'm so sorry to hear that. Tell Troy I'm thinking about you guys. That's nice that you will get to be in Lawrence so long. I'll wait until May to come to Chicago for sure! Will you be back in the beginning of the month?

  3. I worked for a while on the GynOncology ward at Univ. hospital. Food service. Some patients had AIDS too, or other serious immune-compromised conditions. Never got used to it. But it's holy work you're doing — giving care to people who face the biggest questions, the most frightening realities. Bless you. js

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