I promised myself when I started this blog (a whole three weeks ago) that I would keep my posts universal, relevant and humorous (when needed). I’m not sure this post will meet any of these criteria, but this needed to be written.
I needed to write this because I thought this morning that maybe, miraculously, the nurse/ medical assistant I’m writing about will recognize themselves in this story. I wish more than anything I knew her name.
But this probably won’t reach her. So, hopefully and more realistically, this will at least be read by a few nurses or medical assistants, that often never get to hear what they so often deserve: thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.
For those of you who don’t know, during the Miss America pageant last week,one of the contestants (a nurse)
performed a monologue that she wrote about her profession. It later came under scrutiny by a talk show host, and has caused quite a few people to share their experiences with the awesomeness that is nursing.
So here it is:
To A Nurse,
I’m a doctor’s kid. In fact, most people in my family are doctors, or surgeons. I understand the fascination people have with them, the way we tend to glorify them… They are Gods amongst men, the healers of the sick, the fixers of broken bodies. In TV shows and movies, the doctor is the one who takes the special interest in the patient and makes the breakthrough that changes the course of their patient’s lives.
So I get why people feel that way about doctors, I do. And honestly, I think we all tend to think that because very few of us know what it’s like to be really really sick.
I know what it’s like. When I was 18 (so twelve years ago) I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma…a bad…but highly treatable form of cancer. At 18, I was shuttled from doctor’s office to doctor’s office, out of one scan into another, injected with all sorts of dyes, liquids, chemicals, to see how “bad” my cancer really was. I met a million doctors, was poked, prodded, asked a thousand questions, and was scheduled to start chemo all within in the span of a week. My life, as I knew it, had ended.
And then I ended up in a room with you. In what seemed like the basement of the hospital. You were supposed to take one of my “baseline” tests (to like make sure my lungs didnt melt or something during treatments, I don’t know really). You took my blood pressure, listened to my breathing patterns (with your stethoscope!) and gave me a tube I needed to blow into.
You handed it to me, and said, “ok, honey, take a deep breath and just blow sharply into this tube…let it all out.” So I took a deep breath, held onto the tube, and did exactly what you said…I let it all out. I cried. Inconsolably. It was just so quiet in there and you were just so nice, I needed to let it all go.
You didn’t look away like my friends would do. You didn’t “give me a minute” and leave the room so I could get myself together. You sat there, and you listened to me snuffle and sob, and you waited until the hysterical teenager in front of you finally quieted down. And then you took the tube out of my hand, and put your hand on mine and said:
“Hey…look. I see people come in here all the time. I don’t know what your prognosis is, or how long you’re going to have to come to this hospital, or how things are going to go for you. But I know one thing…
I know that one day, years from now, your doctor is going to say to you that you’re done. That it’s time to start living your life. And that’s what you need to do. Take your time…be sad… but when the doctors tell you it’s time to move on, promise me that you will. Don’t be one of those people who is constantly looking over your shoulder and thinking about this part of your life…forget about this place, and just promise me, you’ll move on.”
I nodded my head, wiped my nose, and you handed the tube back to me and said, “Ok…let’s get this done now.”
And that was it. I went on with the treatments, lost my hair, got my hair back, went to my follow up appointments, finished school, and then five years later, in March, I was done. My doctor said I didn’t need to worry about coming in anymore, and that it was time to move on.
And that, dear Nurse, was when I remembered what you said…what you said about moving on and not looking back. And I listened. I really think you would be proud.
People who know me know what I’ve been up to, but I’ll give you the Spark’s Notes version: I live overseas, I work a job I love, I travel and meet more people than I ever imagined, I’ve learned empathy and compassion from the empathy and compassion you and others have shown me, and I almost never think about those days when I was really sick. I do, however, think a lot about you.
Anyone who ever asks me how I ended up overseas, has heard about you. You’re nameless in the stories, and I hate it. I’ve rarely cried about cancer since then, but I’ve often teared up thinking about what you said, and how I would never get to tell you to your face, because what does an 18 year old really understand about the impact our word’s have on others? So I’m sorry. I wish more than anything you knew in that 30 minutes you spent with me, you changed the course of my life.
With eternal gratitude,
So, if anyone who worked at, or is still working at Medical City Dallas, remembers an 18 year old girl in 2003 wearing a shirt that was entirely too low cut, and crying all over your equipment…please know that I owe much of who I am today, to what you said to me.
And to the chemo nurses, the medical assistants, the people drawing blood and the guy who operated the PET-CT scans (yes I remember you)..all of you were my angels at Medical City Dallas. I have innumerable stories from that time I spent in your good graces, and without you all, your jokes, your sincerity, your all around bad-ass-ness, I don’t think I would’ve been able to move on from it like I did. I mean…one guy saw me run into a bathroom crying, and waited outside just to make sure I was okay…really…he had a job to do, and he did that instead.
And to ALL nurses…if you think you remember the one or two patients who stood out to you, please know that numerous people hold your faces and your words in their hearts, even though they may never know your name. Keep up the good work, I just wanted to drop you all a line.
And to anyone still reading this, nurse or not…your kind words matter. Say them.