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I’ve been a perioperative nurse for 34 years, and I’ve cared for too many patients to count. But there are a few patients who made a special impact on me, just as I did on them. Their wisdom, strength, and courage made a difference in my life and influenced the way I would care for my patients. One patient stands out above the rest.
My patient was a shining example of hope and kindness in the face of adversity. Her name was Rose, like a flower, which was appropriate because she was beautiful both inside and out. Sadly, she had a mass in one of her breasts and knew it was breast cancer. I was all too familiar with her diagnosis.
Nancy Cohen, BSN, RN
Rose was a mother to three young children and a wife to an extremely concerned and loving husband. Although she expressed how scared she was about the outcome of her surgery and her future in general, she clutched onto hope and was determined to not let it go. She had a strong faith in God and said everything was in his hands.
I listened to her every word and assured her that I would be there for the duration of the surgery. And as promised, I held Rose’s hand as the anesthesia kicked in and I stayed by her side as she awoke.
Only a few years earlier, when I was 31 years old, I was diagnosed with the same dreaded disease. I was blindsided by the news. How could this happen? I followed a strict diet and exercised regularly. Was it something in the water, the air, the environment? I was completely dumbfounded.
But life moved forward. A few months after multiple surgeries to remove the cancer and four grueling cycles of chemotherapy, I married a man who would demonstrate his unwavering support and love.
After such a difficult period in my life, I resolved to make a difference in the lives of patients like Rose, as a nurse and by volunteering and participating in breast cancer support groups and hotlines.
Staying by Her Side
With Rose, I was determined to follow the “continuity of care” nursing philosophy, even though my perioperative duties were technically completed once surgery had ended. I was no longer legally bound to continue caring for Rose after transferring her to the recovery room unit, but I sat with her as she slowly emerged from anesthesia and became aware of her surroundings. I asked about her three children and her family life as a working mother, and she asked about my own recovery from cancer.
A Patient-Nurse Reunion
Less than a year later, I bumped into Rose at a breast cancer conference. I was absolutely elated to see her. Her hair was growing back, and she was beaming. We exchanged information and kept in touch over the years. She told me joyous stories about each of her children, their growth milestones, and their academic and athletic accomplishments.
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