Names are not being shared due to privacy and this blog is public.
This past year and a half one of my life long friends has been on the front lines in the war against childhood cancers. Her son at age 13 was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. From the side lines I watched this family that I love go through one of the very hardest trials I can ever imagine having to face. It seemed that with every doctor visit, treatment, test, surgery all they ever received was more bad news. Helpless is the only word I can think of when it comes to something as devastating as this. For the parents the feeling of helplessness not to be able to fix and make things better for your child. For the grandparents helpless to not be able to make the hurt for their children and grandchildren go away. Helpless is the word for the aunt who went above and beyond caring for the younger children of this beautiful family. Helpless is the only word for the friends and family in the outer circle of support wishing there was something that could be done to make it all just go away.
Throughout the 18 months there was always something common with each conversation shared with my friend. The most common topic that brought brightness and hope was always his nurses. My dear friend and her husband (also my friend) would always perk up as they mentioned the nurses by name. I saw a sparkle in their son’s eyes when he or his parents spoke of them. From the sidelines I witnessed how the healthcare providers for pediatric oncology not only did their jobs they became family to a hurting family. They were the ones that were there with each gut wrenching blow of horrible news. They were the ones doing all they could to help the pain and nausea. They were the ones praying as they hung each medication that this would be the treatment that would stomp out this thief of a disease. They were the ones that would sit by his bedside and play games. They were the ones that sat by his bedside and took the time to know who this child really is and not just know his disease. They were the ones laughing, crying, hugging, and sharing in the anger at the unfairness of childhood cancer. They were the ones he chose to go on his first date with as one of his final life wishes.
The words “he chose his nurses” are words I can not speak or type without tears flooding my face. As one of his very final wishes he chose to take his nurses out on the town. The pictures of this event show the brightest smiles on all the faces of the nurses and the face of this sweet boy. His nurses were his heroes. His nurses made his final painful days brighter. His nurses made him feel important and not just like another patient. He chose to leave this life in the place that had become another home with the healthcare workers that had become an adopted family. His nurses were there alongside his mom and dad sharing in their pain and grief.
Of course I have a special place in my heart for nurses, but now I believe that pediatric oncology nurses are truly the most heroic of all. To open your heart and step into the lives of children and families going through the hardest of all life’s battles. These beautiful souls are doing so much more than trying to kill cancer cells. To open your heart to love even when you know you might not have the ones that you love for long shows the quality of true angels of mercy. These are the unsung heroes that walk among us.