Big Beautiful Brown Eyes

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    A very touching story appropriate for March since it is the start of Breast Cancer Awareness, campaign walkathons with "pink warriors" and pink ribbon logos. It has taken me over 17 years to be able to share this story with limited tears.

    Big Beautiful Brown Eyes
    By: Lindsey McGraw

    As each year passes quickly, March arrives with the familiar TV ads for breast cancer campaign walkathons featuring the "pink warriors" and "pink ribbon" logos. Finally, years later, I find myself able to watch these commercials without being brought to tears
    by the sight of bald women, hugs from supportive family members and individual stories about why each person has chosen to walk in this event.

    Reflecting on why this seems to make me so sad, once again I am reminded of an event in 1994...two years after experienceing chemotherapy, and a modified radical mastectomy. A large gaping hole resembling the size of an ice cream scoop, was left under my right arm as a constant reminder that lympth nodes had ben removed. Even with physical therapy I remained visibly handicapped with an inverted shoulder, right hand/arm weakness and carried myself always with caution for fear of falling.

    As I was reporting for my eight hour shift at my long term care facility and getting the nursing change of shift report, I was told there was a new patient that had been admitted that morning. Most of us have a little twinge in our heart when told that it is a young one. This particular patient hit me close to home because she was 32 years old with a diagnosis of breast cancer, mets,
    involving the pericardium with a very short life expectancy. Hospice care, pain management regime was in place and private sitters to insure all needs were anticipated for ultimate comfort in her last litle bit of time remaining.

    Making my usual walking round to check on all my patients, I arrived at the private room where she was located. Standing with my hand raised, ready to knock on the door, I took a deep breath and pulling from my intestinal fortitude I knocked gently. Responding to "come in" I entered and saw a young, angelic, frail looking woman in the middle of a big hospital bed.The first thing that struck me were her big, beautiful brown eyes.

    Walking over to introduce myself and softly touching her arm, she scans my face and looks me up and down. Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for what words parted her lips. Gazing at me she said "You have felt my pain, know my struggle and will not let me suffer."

    As she squeezed my hand, it kept me from bolting out the door. I remember smiling through my tear filled eyes and a pack was made at that moment. "Yes, I do understand. You will never suffer on my watch." Quietly exiting the room, my heart felt like it would burst before getting to the solitude of the parking lot where I turned into a shaking, sobbing, pitiful mess.

    Even as experienced as I am, nothing could have prepared me for an encounter of this kind. I was shattered to the quick of my soul by a total stranger in need of my kindness and nursing skills.

    In my mind when I think of her, I visualize a special angel with big, beautiful brown eyes, in heaven greeting our fallen sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who have passed away from this dreadful disease.

    One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, which are really scary statistics. What will we do to make a difference? A powerful slogan comes to mind.

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    About Lindsey McGraw

    Joined: Jan '05; Posts: 32; Likes: 318
    3-11 Supervisor LTC; from US
    Specialty: 34 year(s) of experience in Med Sur, LTC

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  3. by   cherryames1949
    Thank you for sharing such a touching story. We have all had those moments when a patient just gets to you. It reminds us that we are human. It is also a lesson in humility. We can not fix everything but we can remember all of the women that have touched us. We can honor their memory by taking that walk, and educating others about breast cancer. The war is not over yet.
  4. by   BrookeeLou_RN
    Thank you for sharing.. it was very brave of you. Best of luck in your own walk and may you never be alone.
  5. by   kyboyrn
    That was a beautiful story, and thanks for sharing. I lost my mother to metastatic breast cancer a little over six weeks ago. It started out as breast cancer, and after a mastectomy and chemo and radiation, it went into remission for nearly two years. The cancer then returned in her chest wall, but was too close to her aorta to remove. Then, it spread to her lung, and that is ultimately what took her away to heaven to walk amongst the angels. As an emergency room NP, I have dedicated myself to caring for all of my patients the way that I always wanted my mother to be cared for, and I will always have a special place for the breast cancer, or cancer patient in general. What they, including you Lindsey, is one of the most difficult journeys a person could ever take in their entire life. Our family was lucky, as my mother's suffering was not long and drawn out, and she passed away peacefully in her sleep surrounded by loved ones. I'd like to think because her faith was so strong, even though she fell prey to one of the most terrible, sometimes painful diseases known, God made her suffering less extreme and less prolonged than it could have been. I will forever hold a special place in my heart for the breast cancer patient, the breast cancer survivor, the ones that are valiantly fighting, and those that lost the fight. I am here for the families, as I have been in their place. I cannot begin to imagine what the patient goes through, but as a healthcare provider, I plan on doing everything I can to try to understand, and make each patient that I see with complications of the horrible disease of breast cancer, or any other cancer, a priority and I plan on trying to help them as much as possible in every way possible. As a healthcare provider, as FNP and an RN, as a family member, a friend, a boyfriend, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a future husband, and hopefully father, no woman that is stricken with this disease that I know will ever have to walk alone.
  6. by   avert
    Interesting read.