I was in the oncology clinic last Tuesday for my fifth of six rounds of chemo. Our word “oncology” comes from the Greek onkos, meaning bulk, mass, or tumor and the suffix logy, meaning “potentially nauseating.”
The study of tumors includes diagnosis, therapy, follow-up and palliative care of people with cancer. Nurses don’t wear hats anymore, but if they did, oncology nurses would be in green berets. They are on the front lines in the war on cancer. What makes them want to work daily with sick and dying people? I asked two of the ones I’ve gotten to know over the past few months.
Anne has been an oncology nurse for almost seven years. She got interested in this branch of nursing after helping care for her mother-in-law who died of lung cancer. (Her father also died of cancer.) “The patients are so awesome,” Anne says. “I try to be friendly with them but not to become friends because it’s hard to lose one. You can’t do your job if you’re grieving all the time.”
Michelle took 18 years off from nursing to raise and home school five children. Now she works in the oncology clinic at Memorial Hospital. “The hard part is dealing with what you can’t control,” Michelle says. “But the patients are great because they are much more engaged in their condition and eager to cooperate. They’re my heroes.”
I think the heroes are on the other side of the needle. “Blessed” isn’t a word usually associated with chemo but I feel blessed to have the medical care I do. I’m blessed by the technology and those who lovingly administer it, of whom Anne and Michelle are just two examples.