I have been sick most of my life with various illnesses due to an immune disorder. Throughout my hospitalizations and office visits, I have gained the utmost respect for nurses. It is the nurses who take actual care of the patients in most cases and are the conduit to the doctors. It is the nurses who see the patient everyday in the hospital and report changes to the physicians. Often, it is the nurses who hold the hands of the patient who is extremely ill in critical care or dying. It is the nurses left to comfort the grieving families after the devastating loss of a loved one.

I also taught at a community college for ten years and realized how difficult the curriculum and clinical training is for a nurse. Only the best and the brightest make it through.

On my lengthy cancer journey of eight years, I have been touched and amazed by the nurses on my journey. When I switched from an oral chemo to an invasive one, I was really frightened. What would these shots consisting 10 of them every week do to my already weakened immune system? How would I react? My oncologist hadn’t spent a lot of time explaining the side effects. She didn’t need to. A wonderful nurse and another great person responsible for preparing the solution in the laboratory sat down and went through everything with me. They gave me literature to read in layman’s terms that I understood. They assured me that someone would always be available to answer questions. They cautioned me if there was a fever over a certain range to call the office. They reassured me every step of the way.

After I started the new chemo, to my utter dismay, my doctor had to leave the country unexpectedly due to a death in her family. I didn’t need to worry. The nurses stepped in and checked with me every day. They explained they were in constant touch with the doctor. When I told them about the horrible side effects, they advised me on what to do. I realized then the doctors do the important diagnosis and prescribing, but the nurses actually work eight hours a day with the patients. They are more familiar with the side effects on a more personal level than the doctors. They also know when to go and ask the doctor a question they couldn’t answer themselves.

As I went through two years of the shots, the nurses watched my blood counts and checked the stomach to see how it was reacting to the shots administered there. They knew daily what was going on. I sat in the waiting room for five days every month. I watched the wonderful nurse/ angels come into the waiting room and hug the patients, reassuring them as they escorted them to the chemo rooms. I also observed the nurse manager, who knows many of the patients by name and never sits down, making sure the care is given that the patients deserve.

I have to undergo a bone marrow biopsy every six months. One day I appeared in the outpatient department and the nurse who took care of me went to my church! He was incredibly warm and gentle. Six months later I asked him in church if he was working the date I had another one scheduled. He said he was off, but would rearrange his schedule. I assured him that he didn’t have to do that. I was overwhelmed when he ended up working a 12 hour day to be by my side. I will be forever grateful; because it ended up that I had infections where the shots were. I mentioned these to him and he encouraged me to tell the oncologist. I was also nervous because I never know what the results of the bone marrow will show. He went way above and beyond that day and when I thanked him his reply was. “Happy to do it, no problem.”

I was asked by the hospital where I am a patient to be on their Patient Advisory Council. The director and assistant director of Cancer Services run the meeting and both of them have their nursing degrees. I am constantly impressed by their mission to bring the best possible services to every single patient. They put in incredible hours from early morning to meeting with us at night. In between meetings they will e-mail me and ask how I am doing.

Nursing is much more than a job. It is a calling, a profession and a mission. Thank you to all the nurses who are by our sides every single day and God bless you!

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