Lessons in the life of a Nurse

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I met Karol a few weeks ago. She had been admitted for some medical complications secondary to her metastatic breast cancer; that means the cancer has spend to other organs beyond the origins of the primary cancer. Karol was a woman in her early 60’s, she was easy to talk to and  quick to share stories about who she was and her life. We talked for a while in her hospital room about her travels and her love of books. Her husband had passed into Eternity 8 years ago but Karol had many friends so although childless, she was not alone in life. She was quite happy.

The plan on for Karol on the day we first met was for her likely discharge over the weekend. I would call her in a week or two following her discharge to home. I returned to work on Monday to find that Karol hadn’t gone home, in fact her condition had deteriorated and she needed to be moved to the cardiac step-down unit. I to visit her later that day. Her sister Kathy had just flown in from Florida to spend sometime with her…even thought Karol told her not to come. As Karol dozed in her bed, I could see the look of concern in her sister’s face. I could understand her feelings, Karol looked much sicker than when we talked last week, her skin was clearly jaundiced and she needed oxygen.

As the week progressed it became evident that Karol’s condition was deteriorating, she was dying. She stabilized enough to be moved back to the oncology floor, which in my opinion is a more peaceful unit.

I went to visit Karol later that day. She told me that she awoke early that morning and asked herself, “is this the day that I should let go”? I asked Karol if she believed if we have the power to decide on when we die. Yes she replied, don’t you. I have been with people who hold on in this life until a particular family member arrives, sometimes I see people seemingly wait to let go until their loved ones leave the room…did I believe that we could decide when we die? No I don’t think we have that power, I have witnessed too much needless suffering to believe this to be true.

Her phone rang. I could hear her on the phone with friends, who were obviously full of sorrow and crying while talking with her. During that conversation she spent much of the time comforting those who would be left behind after she departed this life. This I told her is a phenomenon I frequently witness; the dying comforting the living. Karol was completely at ease with her impending death. She told me that she wasn’t afraid to die and was at peace. I shared that I believed that peace was a result of living a life that was free of unforgiveness. Yes, she agreed this was true.

I left her room that afternoon. I didn’t talk with Karol again, the next time I went to see her she was unconscious, moving closer to Eternity. Her sister was at her side, friends came and went. Karol left this life peacefully later that day.

We have much to learn from those who are dying. I am most thankful for the time I spent with Karol. I do hope and pray that someday soon we will be even further along in our fight against cancer…in the meantime I continue to reach out in kindness.

Flying Solo

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Every time I see those little cookie vases I smile. It is the simple things in life that are so significant.

Well hard to believe that it is already the middle of March. Happy St. Patty’s Day to all my Irish readers. I am about 50% Irish myself, guess that is why I enjoy beer so muchSmilest-patricks-day

My husband, Steven returns late tomorrow. He doesn’t travel without me so being home alone is unusual although I must confess not unpleasant. It is nice not to have the responsibilities that come along with being a wife for a little while. Not that he is demanding or anything but its nice not to have to be responsible to anyone else for a bit, well except the animals.

Steven and I have been married 7 years this June. Second time around for each of us. As I think back to when we were first married and how I would have felt and acted with his week long absence as compared to today I am very aware of how much I have grown and matured. It is amazing how REAL love makes you feel secure. This security is mostly because I have grown in the Lord these past years AND I am married to a truly wonderful man.

I have made great use of my time alone this week. I am so pleased with the fact that I committed and followed through with early morning rising and journaling every day! Wow, good for me! I have kept a journal for years but never with great consistency. I am still using the same one I wrote in 3 years ago, does that tell you something? Well I was inspired by Cee and Chris who are working through the Artist’s Way and have been journaling 3 pages everyday. I am really impressed with what my journaling has produced over the week and I intend to keep it up.

I have also been really blessed to spend time with each of my daughters, my mom and tomorrow my sister. Last night after work I met my oldest, Emily, at this fabulous place I found on Yelp.IMG_2894 I use Yelp often when I am looking to explore a new area for great eateries. We ordered salads, entrees and even splurged on dessert. Every bite was excellent and I enjoyed left overs today. I will be returning again soon and often.

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I also recommitted myself to Weight Watchers. I am a lifetime member…that means I made my weight loss goal(last March) and no longer pay.  I continued to attend weekly meetings for several months after achieving my weight loss goal but then my life changed and I stopped attending. Well guess what happened? Yep, over the past several months I gained some weight. Not terrible just about 10 pounds or so but I know what can happen and I refuse to do this again. So I cracked out the little WW calculator and began counting points. I have lost about 5 pounds. I plan to lose the rest and then get back to meetings. For me the weekly weigh in keeps me honest and I need that. Next thing is for me to get back on track with some regular exercise. I sure hope I will be writing a post about conquering this hurdle next month!

Well for tonight I think I will go plug into a movie. I borrowed a few from the library and have not watched a one.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Grace

I am thankful the end of the work week has arrived. As you may recall I am a nurse working with breast cancer patients. It is a wonderfully rewarding experience that allows me to bring hope and healing into the hearts and lives of so many bright stars. At times however it can be very hard. While we have made tremendous progress in the treatment of breast cancer in the last 2 decades it does not always have a happy ending.

This week I was blessed to get to know a few women that have a more advanced stage of the disease. These gals are truly remarkable. Their strength second to no soldiers! I however have been overwhelmed with the unfairness of it all. Why God does someone who has faithfully had annual screenings get the news that their cancer isn’t a simple small tumor, after all it was only 12 short months ago the image was taken. Why? Why?

Where does her strength come from to endure the endless tests and the anxiety of waiting in between to hear if the nasty disease is claiming more of her body?

Why does the young woman with 2 young children with no insurance and no ability to get any have to learn that her cancer is now in her bones? Where am I to find the money to help her get a wig for when her hair falls out with her chemo?

No of this makes sense to me!

It does however make me draw closer to my God. I need your presence, wisdom and strength so that I can give these beautiful woman the love you have for them.

As I sit in your presence I hear you whisper to me. I get up to grab the bible off the shelf and am drawn to 2Cor 12:9. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I am quite familiar with the first part of the verse: my grace is sufficient. What however grabs my attention is the later part…your power rests upon me and is made perfect in my weakness. This is only possible when I come to the end of myself. It is at the end of myself that you can take over, your power flows through. Oh, let it be! Not for me but for them.

There is something deeper…I sense a new beginning coming to the surface…

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With Love and Admiration for all these brave woman in the battle for their lives.

 

What to say when someone you know has breast cancer

So someone you know has breast cancer.

Of course you want to be a support, a friend so you call.

Here are some pearls of wisdom, again taken from my work with women struggling with the disease.

  1. First of all be a listener. Your friend has just been given some very difficult information and she needs to talk. You just need to listen.
  2. Do Not tell them about your co-worker or Great Aunt Kitty, everyone’s treatment is unique.
  3. Don’t offer up statistics. These are only numbers and often skewed to serve the group presenting the information. Your friend IS NOT a NUMBER.
  4. Please don’t tell she is strong and will get through this. While this may be very true what she really needs is permission to feel the emotions she is experiencing.
  5. Be with her for the long haul. Cancer treatment can take almost a year to complete if you need to have surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The struggles and fear go well beyond the first couple of weeks.
  6. Have I mentioned…be a good listener. You don’t have to say anything in fact it is often better if you don’t.
  7. She will be tired as her body tries to repair the cells that are damaged. Encourage her to rest. Offer to clean her house or do the laundry.
  8. Make her a pillow to protect her from the seatbelt harness.
  9. Buy her a new pair of button up pretty pajama’s to wear when she is recovering from surgery.
  10. If you are not sure what to say don’t say anything at all, just be there.

While everything written above may sound like “common-sense” I can assure you that it is not. I have heard terrible stories from women struggling with cancer that have had terrible and upsetting things said to them during their treatment. Remember the story and choice(s) are theirs to make, don’t judge or tell them what YOU would do…be thankful that you don’t have to really think about what you would do!

Thanks for reading.

Below is a link to a website that allows you to simply click and money gets added into the breast cancer research fund. Consider taking the extra moment and clicking.

http://click4breastcancer.org/click-for.php?entered=true