Nurses play a critical role after a breast cancer diagnosis. At Living Beyond Breast Cancer, we have heard many stories over the years about how nurses go above and beyond their jobs making the treatment and recovery experience more manageable for women and their families affected by breast cancer. Did you know that May is Oncology Nursing Month? In recognition of their hard word, LBBC is featuring stories from our readers in celebration of their oncology nurses. Here, Laura Renegar, share a “blast from her past” during chemotherapy.
Just one short year ago I started my chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. Since I had already had a lumpectomy and a port placed, I walked into chemotherapy with some mental ease – my tumor had already been removed. But I also had a lot of apprehension and fear. I have had many friends that have gone through chemo and as much as they downplayed the side effects, I knew that my path was going to be a little bit different. Even though I was only having 4 treatments, my dosage was high and I was worried. We were hitting any remaining or lingering cells “hard and fast” according to my oncologist.
On that dreadful Tuesday, I walked into the chemotherapy room and met my nurse, Cathy. She was small and compact and cute as a button. She went over all of the medications, the routines, the things to watch for, and the possibilities of “issues.” As the chemo was dripping into my body, I watched Cathy go from one patient to another, always calm, direct, and professional. I kept having this gnawing feeling that I knew her from someplace but I couldn’t remember where. My Benadryl buzz came and went, the hours of the chemo drip going into my body came and went, then it was time to have some fluids, flush my port, and I was done. No horrific episodes, no heart flutters, no nausea, no fainting, no pain, nothing. I was good. My first chemo was over and Cathy said my body responded well and that I tolerated the chemo beautifully. My mind continued to navigate through the “old files” of where I could have possibly met Cathy before but came up empty handed. I went back for my Neulasta shot the next day and still could not place how I knew this woman. As the days wore on my chemo side effects came and went but my mind continued searching for facts on Cathy. It took about a week, but I finally realized how I knew her! I had actually gone on some double dates with Cathy when she dated one of my male friends. She and the man I was dating at the time mixed like oil and vinegar and none of us really wanted to figure out why. They clearly disliked each other so the double dating stopped. Several months later she and my friend parted ways and that was about eight years ago. I verified with my friend that this was the same Cathy he had dated and then I began to worry about those uncomfortable double dates many years ago.
“Was I nice to Cathy during those times?”
“Was I rude to her when she broke up with my friend?”
“Did I stick up for the man I was dating—the one she couldn’t stand—and was I ugly to her way back then?”
The thoughts rambled through my mind and I really began to realize how your past can sometimes come back to haunt you. Over the next two weeks, I rattled my brain but could not remember how Cathy and I got along back then – and now she was my chemo nurse. Good grief, really?
It was time for my second chemo treatment and I was a little worried because I knew my friend had probably contacted Cathy to see if she remembered me. Sure enough, he did, and she remembered. As soon as I walked into the chemo room, Cathy walked over to me, wrapped her arms around me and told me how glad she was to see me again and that although she hadn’t recognized me during the last treatment, she certainly remembered me. What could have been an awkward exchange turned into a warm and friendly moment. We chatted about our mutual friend, the past, our kids, and our lives.
For the rest of my chemo treatments Cathy was nothing but kind to me. She handled me with dignity and grace, and I could not have been more thankful that—not only was my chemo nurse kind, efficient, diligent, and caring – but that my chemo nurse was Cathy.
After chemotherapy was over, I had one port flush and I didn’t know that it was to be my final goodbye to Cathy. She told me that she was going to work for a larger oncology clinic and that she wouldn’t be there to see me during my quarterly cancer check-ups. Cathy knew that in a few weeks I was having a bi-lateral mastectomy and we both said goodbye and good luck with tears in our eyes as we parted much closer friends than we were four months earlier.
I will never forget how Cathy treated me during my chemo treatments and I can still only hope I was half as kind to her, eight years ago. Cathy treated me like an old friend – because that is what we were after all. We just needed a little bit of chemotherapy to remind us.