Staying Positive in the Face of Cancer

Sunday, May 18, 2014 - 9:28am
Chemo-Infusion Nurse, RPCI Amherst Center

On the afternoon of Monday, March 31, I headed from my usual post as a chemo-infusion nurse at RPCI’s Amherst Center to our main campus in Buffalo, NY. At the time, I was under the impression that I was simply attending our first-ever DAISY Award ceremony, recognizing oncology nurses at Roswell Park. Imagine my surprise upon noticing one of my patients, along with members of her family, also at the ceremony. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was not only there as an attendee, but also as a recipient of a DAISY Award.

Words can’t express how grateful I am, along with my colleague Jacob Madonia, to be one of the first DAISY winners at Roswell Park, but I must share a few words about the amazing young woman who nominated me.

Only 31 years old and battling colorectal cancer, she is one of the most positive, upbeat people I have ever met. In the face of a cancer diagnosis and the ensuing treatment, she maintains an incredible attitude and, remarkably, has never missed a day of work. She is an inspiration to me and the rest of our team. To have received not only a nomination, but also the DAISY Award, because of her is an wonderful honor.

In her nomination speech, she mentioned that some of the other nurses and I threw her a 30th birthday party last year. We bought her cake, flowers and a card. I couldn’t believe the impact that such a simple party had. To me, it was just part of my job. To this patient, it was a moment she’ll never forget. Looking back, knowing I helped create that memory is something that both my team and I are very proud of.

I do my best to make the clinic a positive place because, let’s be honest — no one really wants to be there, even if they are receiving potentially life-saving treatment.

Throwing birthday parties, celebrating milestones, playing music, sharing laughs — this is all part of being an oncology nurse and it’s part of our philosophy at RPCI Amherst. Bringing positivity to the room makes such a big difference. It helps patients keep their minds off what they’re going through.

Being an oncology nurse is not, of course, always about fun. I also assess and manage side effects, dispense advice, and communicate with patients' physicians to be sure they’re receiving medication to control nausea, pain or fatigue, if necessary. Our main goal is to try to keep patients on treatment as long as it’s helping them, and to keep them on a regular treatment schedule so they have the best shot at controlling their disease.

These patients, including the one who nominated me for the DAISY Award, are so special to me. After a while, they become like members of your family. I know that may sound a bit cliché, but it’s true. After getting to know someone over the course of months or years, it’s only natural to feel a bond.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the entire team at RPCI Amherst. It was wonderful to receive this award, but I’m really a member of a larger unit that deserves just as much recognition. To be able to provide care at a place like Roswell Park, which provides a multidisciplinary approach and many levels of care all under one roof, is a special feeling.