What are you planning for National Nurses Week?

In case you didn’t know, May 6-12 is National Nurses Week, which allows about a month to plan. What if you showed up with a bouquet of flowers? Or some chocolate? Or a gift card to a local coffee shop?

To thank the men and women who made a difference in your life, or in the life of your loved one? How cool would that be?


First-year COCC nursing students, 2016

Earlier this week, I spoke to first-year nursing students at the local college, sharing what my husband, Gary, and I did for quality of life while he dealt with cancer.

I also suggested—when it comes time and where it would be appropriate—that they encourage their patients to be proactive in their own healing process.

And I urged them to practice good self-care in this hard and holy calling.

Of all the audiences Gary and I presented to, nurses were our favorite.

Maybe it was their youthful energy.

Maybe it was because they ‘got’ my husband’s tongue-in-cheek humor better than most.

And maybe it was because Gary and I had such incredible experiences with nurses in our ten-year journey through cancer.

Maya Angelou said this:

As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the mind, soul, heart, and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Some nurses’ names I’ve forgotten. But I will never forget that most of them went above and beyond the call of duty in caring for my husband.

The prep nurses in outpatient surgery (where we showed up maybe four or five times because of nephrostomy tube issues) … well, one of them said this: “You know we don’t offer frequent flyer miles, right?”

There was the oncology nurse, Liz, who held Gary’s hand at the start of his first chemo treatment, knowing this was palliative care and not a cure; Liz, who brought her horses to Soaring Spirits Camp for children of cancer patients to ride.

There were the nurses at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle who joked with my husband and administered treatment when he flew there two times every three weeks for clinical trial treatment.

There was Melinda, our Hospice Field Nurse, the perfect fit for Gary’s dry humor, who could zing him right back with her sharp wit.

And there were the nurses at Hospice House—when Gary’s medical needs became more than I was able to manage at home—whose job was to make my husband as comfortable as possible, so gently, so kindly, so attentive to my daughter and me as we walked beside him.

The combined humor and compassion, the wisdom and adeptness, the confidence and ability to comfort and explain — it all went far in serving as a buffer in easing the hard news, a ray of light and hope against our darkness.

A final thought

Gary and I, as patient and caregiver, were recipients of these kinds of nurses:

It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together.

— Unknown

So much hard news, but so many astonishing, fearless, sassy nurses.

Thank you to each of you, and to this new crop coming up, you attentive students who listened so well this past Monday.

Just … thank you.

I’ll leave you with this thought from an unknown author:

Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear scrubs.

— Unknown


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  1. I have so many nurses to thank for the way I was treated and looked after for the last 22 and a half years being in and out of hospitals all the time. I wrote a blog post last summer after spending 36 days in 3 different hospitals. I need to really think about the best way to ensure my message would reach the most of them. I loved your article because as you may have noticed I can relate to what you say.

    • Good for you, James, to consider: “the best way to ensure my message would reach the most of them.” I love that you’re thinking along those lines!

  2. Peter

    When these ‘wonderful angels’ have mended or aided us in the way only they can and you get to know them, they are a certain kind of special friend in those moments of need, making life more bearable and I guess most of us ‘never forget them’. And, so often they are never told what our heart feels. In such circumstances they are often there to ‘tell us what to do to help ourselves’ – to get better. Really loved this message Marlys…. thank you. I recalled so many humorous moments, even in the agony, helping to take away the pain. Here’s a little moment… coming out of the operation and back to the ward, the nurse said, “You weren’t half giving someone hell in there”, so I enquired what it was I had been saying. She said, “You were shouting – Someone in here’s got my bloody kidney” – apparently over and over!. I believe what had happened at work when I told my boss I had to have the operation, was in my sub conscious because the bosses words were, ‘Have you seen the film Coma… I can see you suspended there, for spare parts’. I had seen the film and when the boss visited, I told him what I believed he had done to my sub-consciousness. He apologised, we laughed, so did the nursing staff. Thanks again, God Bless you and yours. Peter.

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