“You can have all the ice cream cups you want,” the nurses at the oncology unit told me, back at the beginning of the journey through the wilds of cancer with my daughter. They knew I wasn’t hungry so much as in need of kindness. But even more than kindness, I desperately needed to know Marika was in good hands, that the people around her cared. Over the course of her cancer, hundreds of nurses would come to look into Marika’s eyes, check her vitals, listen as she scored her pain on scales of 1 to 10, and treat her like a princess. And even when I hollered at the nurses, the time they barred me from her room (as per the princess’s request), I was thoroughly grateful for all their caring.
National Nurses Week, an opportunity to honor the hard work and dedication of nurses, is May 6th through 12th. From the bottom of my broken heart I’m sending out my warmest wishes to nurses everywhere. And many thanks, especially, to the ones who carried sweet light into our nightmare.
Cheers to the nurses who showed me the secret shower in the hospital mop closet. To the nurses who let Marika sneak her puppy into the hospital room and brought doggie treats. Thanks to the nurse who gently washed my daughter’s hair as she lay unconscious in the ICU. And to the one who sang to her. Hugs to the two nurses who, when Marika ran out of underpants and I bought her Jockey briefs, used their lunch break to go buy her bikinis and thongs. When Marika had to miss her senior prom, those same nurses decorated an empty room with balloons and crepe paper, added a boom-box with favorite tunes, propped Marika up in bed with prom dress hiding catheters and IV tubes, and invited her boyfriend over for a private prom-night. Nurses brought Marika books and CDs, stuffed animals, an electric keyboard, and restaurant-takeout recommendations. They made her chocolate ice cream milkshakes.
One day I found Marika flushing out her own vein-access port under the careful guidance of an oncology nurse. Beaming with pride, Marika announced, “Mom, I got accepted into the nursing program at University of Technology Sydney.” Inspired by the people who had kept her going with their kindness and skills, Marika had decided to become a nurse herself.
Two weeks after that though, the princess’s situation had changed. Her journey was ending. Nurses from the three units Marika had frequented over the almost-three years of cancer came by in pairs to see her. They silently stood over their princess one last time. There were no words. They left me with hugs. And a feeling of having been taken care of and held in warmest kindness.
What is your nurse story?