I spend my days as an oncology nurse. In my daily duties I meet many people. I work with their doctors to help them fight the disease. Many times we fight to the end of our patients' lives doing everything we can to keep them alive and comfortable. We try to make sure they have the best quality of life. A life worth living by dealing with pain of the disease and all the side effects of the medication they must take to keep the cancer from taking over. This process can take as little as a few months and as long as a few years. During the course of treatment bonds are often formed with the patient. Every time a patient comes in to see their doctor or to receive a treatment they open a door to their lives and invite you their nurse in. This is a position of privilege not given to every one. As the nurse you bond with some of the patients and you don't with others. Once the treatment is completed the bond is broken as the patient goes back to their daily life, and you get ready for the next patient to come into the clinic.
I tell you all of this because the greatest thing happened to me today. After church my family and I went to eat lunch at a local restraint. We were ushered to our seats and I caught a glimpse of an attractive women sitting at the table across from us. For a moment my mind told me I knew her but from where. At that same moment I remembered her. She was a patient of mine. I hadn't seen her for a while. I had actually been thinking about her a few days before wondering how she was. I went about eating my lunch not wanting to distract her from her family and friends. I did not want to bring up bad memories for her if she had put the disease and treatments behind her and was trying to move away from it. I couldn't help but steal a glance at her now and then to see for myself if she was well. She looked beautiful as ever.
At one point she met my glance as I was walking back to my table from the buffet table. She smiled, I waved. A few minutes later as I sat at my table I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was her. She said hello and we shared a hug. I asked how she was, she told me she was well and how she thought we had beaten the disease this time. She looked at my husband and son and told them I was her nurse and how I had helped her. I had to swallow back the tears as she spoke. I asked her if she was singing again. (She has a beautiful singing voice and is in a Christian band with her husband. At one point during the treatment she stopped singing because of a brain surgery that took most of her memory.) She told me she was indeed singing again and had been for a while. I told her how delighted I was to hear she was able to do something she loved so much. We shared another hug and she told me she would see me soon as she had an appointment with the doctor in the near future. Before she went back to her table she held my hand and gave it a little squeeze.
After our encounter I have to say I feel wonderful. In my scope of nursing I do not get very many success stories and to know this patient was well makes my heart sing. It makes me know this is truly a calling and not just a job at a time when I have doubted my ability to continue to do this job. To know that this one patient appreciated the time I spent with her makes it worth while.
After all if I have helped this patient maybe there are more, and maybe I can help at least one more person before I hang up my nursing shoes