Jenny Resignola RN, BSN, OCN
October is Breast Cancer awareness month. About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. In 2016, an estimated 307,660 new cases of invasive and non-invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. (Breast Cancer.Org)
I am a Registered Nurse certified in Oncology. I have been a registered nurse for over 35 years and have worked in many medical and surgical areas. The last 14 years have been in the specialty of Oncology. My day to day schedule is to care for and administer Chemotherapy to Cancer patients. During those long stretches of time while patients are going through their Chemotherapy, nurses (like myself) are privileged to be part of the cancer patients healing process, both through administering medication and administering a true compassion through listening and hopefully guiding the patient and his or her family through this challenging time.
While practicing as a home health and hospice nurse in my earlier years, I became very familiar with caring for multiple cancer patients. I developed a certain love for oncology nursing and am still in love with it today.
I felt I could really make a difference to patients in this field of medicine and I myself have family and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. The courage and love of cancer patients, their families and caregivers is always amazing to me.
One of my many treasured recollections in regard to courage was while at work one special day. I first met a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient who was going to be receiving a chemotherapy drug called Adriamycin. This particular chemotherapy agent is known to cause loss of hair and other potential significant side effects. “M” was a young married woman with two children in high school. When M first toured the chemotherapy infusion unit she was completely overwhelmed and anxious with the prospect of treatment and hair loss. Through our many conversations we had during her chemo sessions she had expressed to me that losing all of her hair was most traumatic. M completed her entire course of Intravenous Chemotherapy. Interestingly enough, it happened to be that M was a successful author. In order to inspire and encourage others she turned her whole experience into a published book. The proceeds from the selling of her books goes to help breast cancer victims.
Another example of courage that comes to my mind, was a young man “B” diagnosed with multiple myeloma at age 40. At the time of diagnosis he and his wife were raising their three young children ages 5, 10 and 12 years old. During his treatment process he required cervical spine surgery, 3 stem cell transplants along with other procedures. Even with the constant knowledge of the fragility of his spine he kept a positive attitude in order to maintain a feeling of normality for his children. He once confided to me that he has had many ups and downs with moments of despair, however by listening to other patients in our Chemotherapy Infusion unit, their stories and comradery have increased his strength and dignity. B once told me that he had come to realize that everybody has “their own story” and that this was a big motivator for him knowing that he was not alone and that others needed him too.
Today, B is an 8 year survivor, and is in remission now. He has shared with me his thoughts that during this journey it seems that someone always steps up to the plate to help, whether it be nurse, friend, family member or stranger. At the end of one of his Chemo sessions B stated to me that, without a relationship with God, none of this spiritual or physical healing would be possible.
The courage and love of Cancer patients has always been amazing to me. The support of the families and friends of patients going through Cancer can be equally amazing in the love, care & devotion they exhibit to the cancer patient. One of my many treasured recollections in regard to these attributes is “G”. G was a middle aged gentleman diagnosed with head and neck cancer. He was kind and always had a smile on his face even when he didn’t feel well. His daughter also began volunteering to help cancer patients after G was diagnosed. His devoted family was always at his side until the very end. Mr. G’s daughter continues to this day to volunteer helping cancer patients in memory of her wonderful father.
Many times family and friends feel helpless and don’t know what to do. However, what many friends and family don’t realize is that just being there to listen, care and helping with those day to day tasks that fatigue patients going through Chemo (or radiation) is a big part of the healing process too.
I am blessed to be an Oncology nurse. To share this difficult and challenging time with Cancer patients and their families is an honor. These individuals have given me much more than I feel I could give them. I have been given the greatest gift of all, which is to witness true caring, empathy and goodness in individuals especially during the most challenging part of life.
I often think of the following quote in regard to individuals affected by Cancer: COURAGE DOESN’T ALWAYS ROAR. SOMETIMES COURAGE IS THE QUIET VOICE AT THE END OF THE DAY SAYING, “I WILL TRY AGAIN TOMORROW” by Mary Anne Radmacher
I would like to give thanks to all of those nurses, physicians, patients and their families who are true examples of the day to day heroes that have touched my life.
By Jenny Resignola RN, BSN, OCN