Cancer Connections – Touching Stories from Oncology Patients & Nurses

Nurse and cancer patient

There is no denying the strength, support, love and care nurses provide their patients every day. Whether it be informed medical advice and assistance or simply a smile and a conversation, oncology nurses work hard everyday to help those fighting serious – and sometimes terminal – cancers. We all owe a lot to our nurses and they feel the same about their patients! Many nurses cite interactions with their patients as the main motivation behind why they love their job so much!

In honor of Oncology Nursing Month and the nurses who do so much for us, here are some testimonials about the love, care, and endless rewards that come from a patient-nurse relationship.

“I’ve always known that being a nurse is one of the hardest professions that takes a lot of responsibility and skill. After four years as a cancer patient, I experienced it first hand. My nurses Allen and Marion treat me as family. There is no question about my treatment that they don’t know. Being a nurse is in their hearts. They have the greatest attitude and…I admire them very much for having strong souls and taking such good care of me. Thank you very much to my nurses Allen and Marion for your support!” – Guadalupe, cancer survivor

“One day, I was chosen to care for a woman with stage 4 ovarian cancer. She shared her thoughts and feelings about her impending death from this horrible disease. At one point as I sat next to her bed and held her hand as she cried, I couldn’t hold back my own tears anymore. I cried with her. I felt embarrassed about crying and thought I should be strong for her. I apologized and she told me “you wouldn’t be a good nurse if you didn’t care enough to cry with me.” It’s moments like these that…confirmed for me that I was meant to hold the hands of cancer patients through their journey fighting their heroic battle against this awful disease.” – Vicki Doctor, care manager, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

“One of my nurses came into my hospital room. I was sitting on the edge of my bed feeling death warmed over or perhaps that death would be even preferable at that point. I guess she could just see it in my eyes or my face but she knew. She just knew that I needed a hug. Just a simple hug, but at that moment it meant the world to me! She just held me, not saying a word.” – David A. Koop, author of ‘Cancer: It’s a Good Thing I Got It! The Life Story of a Very Lucky Man’

“The first thought that crossed my mind is when I was going to start working on the Oncology unit. I thought, that it is a difficult area of nursing to work in, but somehow I found myself drawn to this area of care. Indeed I was right. I use to comfort myself by saying that for every patient that does poorly, there’s others that would also do well. And then the ones who initially did well, I would see them go bad eventually and that was very difficult. But I still decided to stay. I learned to love working in Oncology inspite of the fact that we do lose a lot of patients in this unit and it’s very hard emotionally. I find it very rewarding to care for patients and families at the time of their most need. Seeing them very appreciative of the care you provide them even though they are close to the end. It makes all my stresses and heartache of the day worthwhile. I’m constantly amazed at the strength cancer patients have and the effect it plays on personal health. With each loss I witness, I have learned something from it and it has taught me a lot about life and myself. I love working in the oncology unit at Glendale Adventist Medical Center in Los Angeles.” – Aileen Lim, RN Glendale Adventist Medical Center

“My first day I walked into my first room [on the oncology floor] alone and this little old country farmer…was in obvious pain. When I walked in he looked up at me, mustered a smile, and said, “there is my angel.” He had such gratitude and kindness in his smile and his heart. [He] inspired me to help this patient population even if it’s with a smile, kind word, or a listening ear.” – Julie Ebersole, manager of new patient experience, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

“I was taking care of three patients who were being treated for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. The treatments were grueling. One day, I was passing by the parent lounge and I heard rip-roaring laughter come from the mothers. They had been talking with their sons about all the procedures that they had undergone. Their sons had declared that, when they went to heaven, each of them would get to perform ‘a stick’ on their attending before he could cross through the gates into heaven – one lumbar puncture, one IV sticks, and one bone marrow biopsy. Getting to perform the procedures on their attending was going to be “their reward” for everything that they had gone through during treatments. I sat there laughing with their mothers – and had a good conspiratorial giggle with each of the patients later in the day. that’s when I knew that I would always want to work with Pediatric Oncology families. I was amazed and inspired by the ability of those kids and their mothers to laugh in the face of such adversity.” – Melody Ann Watral, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC, CPON, President, Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses(APHON)

These are only a few stories of how nurses have impacted their patients and vice versa. Share these stories as well as your own and remember to thank a nurse, not only this month, but every month of the year!