My Radiation nurse: A Tribute to a Young Warrior

I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results. -Florence Nightingale

Cancer patients often speak about their nurses and doctors. It is important if your in the medical field to understand this.  The cancer community relies on each other for recommendations and we take them very, very seriously. We talk…ok…we gossip…and we trust each other’s judgement.  Why does this matter? Because when you’re not kind or hurtful with your words we speak on it and I think it’s much like a bad YELP review. It can spread like fire. And when we get a nurse or doctor who changes our lives, we preach to the world about it. So here is the story of my nurse warrior. 

I sat on the table in a sort of half squat. I was three weeks into radiation treatment for rectal cancer. The open wounds, flaming hot skin, and blisters were not allowing me to fully sit. I looked towards the door and she came in. She looked at me. That is what I noticed first, she looked right at me. When she saw me wincing in pain she immediately walked towards me. “Are you ok?” She grabbed my arm a bit with this warmth that I can’t really explain. It was like I immediately knew she was going to take care of me. I needed to be taken care of so bad. I broke down and cried in a way I had never done before. I was shaking, tired, alone and afraid. 

This breaking down crying like a little baby thing happened every Wednesday that I saw the doctor. It was the same thing every week. The young nurse would greet me with big smiles, make some small talk about the weather and would stand so close to me when she asked, “how are you really doing?”   She would stay often for the exams not because she was needed but because she knew I needed to hold someone’s hand. I would often times come in alone without anyone. This was nothing we ever talked about, but it was the only thing that kept me from rock bottom emotions. Her hand. She rubbed my back when I would cry to the doctor, she just stood there watching me cry, rubbing my back.  

She gave me stories of her own struggles with chronic illness. Although she was young she had lived a long life already, I could tell. She would count down the days until radiation was done and would remind me of the end, to always remember there is an end. This nurse warrior would find me after radiation treatments as I was limping out to my car and would tell me the “the sun will come out tomorrow.” When she found out my name last name was Wolfe, she insisted that I was meant to have that last name. She told me that I was filled with so much strength, much like a Wolf, and that my determination and will was inspiring. It kept me going. It kept me fighting. 

On my last day of radiation I went to the florist and presented my nurse warrior with a sunflower. I told her that for 35 days I felt like I was in a rain cloud. When I came here, I could see the sun again. She made the sun shine for me again. She was stunned with this gift. She was so young and new. When she told me she would never forget me I wondered if she understood how true that was for me as well. Thank you, seems so small, but it can go a long way.

 If you are in the medical field please remember that we see you sometimes at our rock bottom. We don’t act like ourselves, we don’t have the same light we usually do. And when you can shine bright for us, you ignite hope. You ignite sparks of healthy, healthy hope. You don’t always have to be a warrior but sprinkle with us hope. Stay woke. 

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