Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thank you, Nurse.

Two months ago, I started a pile of condolence cards, mass offerings, prayer cards, and donations made in Jon's name that I received when he died. I planned on writing individual thank you notes to everyone who offered their sympathy, but as I glance over at the table, that pile has only seemed to have grown. The general thank you's are simple enough -- some of the people who sent cards or made donations are people I never even met. But I desperately want to thank so many individual people... people who helped Jon and I along the way, people who enriched Jon's life while he was alive, people who held my hand and literally saved me after he died. People who's messages brought me comfort, or even made me smile. Someday, I will address each of these people individually. For now, I thought I'd offer up a select few for the world to see. Some of these people deserve so much more gratitude than can be expressed in words. But words are all I have to give right now.

As a pediatric oncology nurse, I've had many people tell me how 'special' I must be to work in this field. I've had parents of patients invite me into their lives during some of their darkest moments, and some of their happiest. I've had them tell me that the nurses and caregivers became family to them. I never truly understood until my life came full circle. Being with Jonathan through all stages of treatment, and caring for him at the end, I gained a completely different perspective of these caregivers who joined us on our roller coaster ride.

Please know that I am thankful for EVERY person who took care of Jonathan in some way, but there are specific people who I would not have survived this journey without. Jon's primary clinic nurse -- Where do I even begin? She not only made Jon feel safe, cared for, and loved, but she empowered me, to be the strongest person I could be. She was with us every step of the way. She truly knew Jon, not just his disease and side effects, but who he was outside of the world of cancer. She was able to give me peace of mind, knowing he was in her care if I couldn't be by his side for a few hours. Letting myself trust ANYONE was nearly impossible... but I trusted her. With his life. With my own, knowing that his life and mine were intertwined. She was our personal cheerleader -- always so excited for any new, happy event in our lives. She laughed with us, and gave us hope for our future. When things progressed, she gave me space. She let me draw my own conclusions while simultaneously offering support. She knew when to speak up and when to hold back. She let me be a control freak. She cried with me. She gave me hope for my own future, which surely was not turning out the way any of us wished. She is the definition of everything I've ever wanted to be as a caregiver. She is the living version of all the words I could not understand when I've heard parents tell me how important I was to them during their journey. And suddenly, I understood. How much of a difference one person can make.

To my fellow nurses, sometimes I know we wonder why we do what we do. We question why we allow our hearts to hurt as part of our career, why we continue our efforts when sometimes things appear so futile and hopeless. But let me tell you, I know why. YOU matter more than you will ever be able to understand. Words and actions that may seem so insignificant at the time have a profound impact on the lives you touch. We've all seen miracles, and we've all seen heartache. What I never truly understood until I was on the opposite end of the spectrum, was that truly the outcome doesn't matter. I don't remember what nurse gave what drug, or the exact moment when I knew Jon wasn't going to get better. But I remember the support I felt. I remember the select few who made the worst, darkest moments -- not better -- but somehow bearable. And we can rant and cry and question all day, but deep in our hearts, something keeps us going. We know why we're the kind of nurses we are. We know why we give our all. And I can promise you, from experience, that it makes all the difference in the world. It did in my world.

As time passes, I will find the words to thank everyone and express the immense gratitude that overwhelms me. For now: To Jon's inpatient team of nurses, to his clinic nurses, to the nurses in the ER who hugged me and who's names I will never know, to my nurse friends and amazing coworkers. Thank you for giving a piece of yourselves, a piece of your heart in everything you do. I am honored to share the same title. <3

"When you're a nurse you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours"

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