Beauty in the Struggle | A Personal Series About Cancer
Over a decade ago, I began my journey to become an oncology nurse. When I first was approached with the idea of working with patients with cancer, someone told me… You will either love it and never want to leave… or hate it! 11 years later I am still here! You may ask what I mean when I say “you will love it”. Truth is, I hate cancer. It SUCKS! That is probably the most simple way to describe cancer. The word alone makes me cringe, makes me cry, makes me fear what could happen in the future to myself, my friends, my loved ones. I spent several years as a nurse assistant, and then followed that as a nurse for patients with cancer. Through the experience, I have learned so much about myself and life. I have learned that although I HATE cancer, there is nothing more rewarding and inspiring than caring for the people who are kicking Cancer’s butt, and that I LOVE!
Over a one year period, I experienced a loss like none I had prepared for in the role of a nurse. I grew close to so many patients I had cared for, and in one year… 17 of them passed away. They were all children, under the age of 18 years. Innocent, vulnerable and hopeful children. I began to question why I was doing this job, how was I doing it. While the patients were not my blood family, and although we are educated and encouraged to not “get to close” to our patients, that was nearly impossible. There were so many that touched my heart in more ways than words could describe. And in the future, with their parents permission, I will share some more stories of those that received their angel wings far too soon.
For years I struggled to cope with the loss. I would come home crying from work and began to become jaded by death. I forgot the good things in life as the weight was far too heavy for me to bare at the time. So in 2012, I turned to photography to show me that good things can happen in life. It was the perfect balance in my life to not make me forget the pain and sadness, but rather to remember why life is worth living and fighting for! I began to search for ways to cope and remind myself to accept a couple of things.
FIRST, cancer happens, and although it sucks, it is not my fault it happens.
SECOND, as an oncology nurse it was my job to give chemotherapy or treatment that can make someone feel more sick, that some refer to as “poison”.
THIRD, I can not control who survives and who doesn’t.
FOURTH, All I can control is how the person feels that day!
Stuart Scott once said “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
Although Stuart Scott is no longer living on this earth, his words will touch the lives of so many. He too was a warrior in the battle of cancer. My journey to understanding how to cope and deal with being the nurse caring for those who’s fate is unknown began once I accepted the things out of my control. I learned that to be a truly impactful oncology nurse I could not dwell on the negatives like administering “poison” to my patients, waking them up in all hours of the night to check on them, or the fact of intruding on so many of their personal moments. Rather, my goal shifted and I focused on one idea. That idea was to MAKE THE MOST of each day and do what I could to make them SMILE!!!
So here I stand today, over a decade later, being INSPIRED and drawn to show some incredible warriors how to find
“BEAUTY IN THE STRUGGLE”
I want to take a moment to introduce you to this group of incredible people who have shown me so much love, grace, and encouragement…all while they went through something that changed their lives forever! Over the next weeks I will be sharing each of their stories with you all.
“Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go.
You may not be where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.”
Every one of these amazing people have had ugly moments, have lived in fear, have experienced the raw emotion of being in the most fragile state they could be in. They had to trust in doctors, nurses, other healthcare staff to make decisions and recommendations in their best interest. They have had to live in the most vulnerable position by letting complete strangers enter their lives, meet their families, help them to the bathroom, and so many other personal things that we often take for granted. They have experienced body changes like hair loss, pigmentation changes, and changes in their senses. They have had to face the ugly truth by asking themselves “am I going to DIE?”
While some of them are currently in remission, some are still fighting like hell for their place on this earth, for every minute they can. For moments they can share with their loved ones, experiences they can cherish. They strive to find BEAUTY IN THE STRUGGLE.
For years I have wanted to do something special to give back to those whom I’ve been given the honor and privilege of being their nurse, and friend. With the help of an amazing group of volunteers and vendors, I was able to get everyone together for a day of glam and a chance to make them feel as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside.
Special thanks to:
I cant thank these brave souls enough for being willing to open up their hearts, and share their stories!
More to come! Stay tuned!