Unsung Heroes

In the world of lung cancer, and surely oncology in general, there is a class of people who qualify wholeheartedly as unsung heroes. Those people are nurses. I could go down the list of people I interact with at my cancer clinic from administrative attendants, insurance specialists and phlebotomists to physician assistants, lab technicians, and even doctors, but without fail, the ones who provide the most direct, one-on-one service with skill and compassion are the nurses.

Nurses Often Connect with Their Patients

I like to tell people that while I would never wish cancer on anyone, there are benefits to be found in the course of dealing with the disease. One of those benefits is making the acquaintance of nurses of all types who come to be friends and confidantes of a sort. I deal with intake nurses, nurse practitioners, infusion nurses and trial nurses. Each has her own specific responsibilities, but one of the common traits displayed by all is a sincere interest in treating the person she's dealing with, not just the disease.

My intake nurses not only take all of my vitals and update my computerized records, they attend to my needs by offering drinks, blankets, pillows or whatever else might help to make me comfortable. They commiserate with me if I'm not feeling well the day of an appointment, which makes me feel cared for. My nurse practitioner asks the right questions and listens intently to my answers. She shares her knowledge with me and treats me like a partner in this ongoing process of cancer care that I am engaged in.

More Than Just Medical Care

My infusion nurses quickly come to know me by name. They use their vast skills to make me as comfortable as possible during treatments. We share funny stories, and sometimes not so funny ones too. They ask medical questions related to my treatment and offer ideas on ways to deal with issues I bring up. They get excited with me when I tell them about some of my lung cancer advocacy activities or plans. On occasion, they even share treats from the nurse's station just because they are caring and sweet people.

My trial nurse goes over everything trial related with me, making sure I understand what is happening or will happen and why. She consults closely with all other members of my medical team so she can maintain a good knowledge base as my go-to person while I am being treated in a clinical trial. I find her good nature and responsiveness to be most helpful, especially when I am struggling with side effects that have no easy answers.

It's not easy being a cancer patient, what with all of the lab tests, needle sticks, CT scans, infusions, drugs and everything else that goes into trying to beat this disease. There can be no doubt, however, that great nurses make it much more bearable than it otherwise might be. They get far too little credit for the important work they do in the medical world, and the care and compassion with which they do it.

If you haven't complimented your nurses lately, maybe it's time once again. Let them know that they are our unsung heroes...for real.

Share your own experiences with nurses here.

Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 8, 2019, Karen Loss passed away. Karen was a valued member of the lung cancer community and an incredible advocate and avid writer. She will be deeply missed.

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