Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Noreen, Brenda, and Illona

If you are a caregiver, doctor, nurse, technician, then this post is for you.  While undergoing a lung scan last evening, I had a conversation with my tech.  As I am known to do, I make sure that everyone involved in my care know how much I value their knowledge and experience, and am thankful that they have played a part of saving my life.

This step in my care began three years ago.  In recognizing my second decade completed having been cured of my Hodgkin’s Disease, I realized one thing I had never done, and all of a sudden, there was at least one thing I needed to do, to bring closure to that history.

It is probably a safe bet to say, that most of our first-responders and medical personnel never get to hear the happy endings, to our health crisis, whether it be an accident or disease.  I wanted to start by letting three women know how important a role, their careers were to at least one person.

Noreen was my radiation tech.  She was charged with my radiation treatments for thirty days.  She made sure that I was comfortable every time I laid on the table for the linear accelerator.  We joked my very first treatment when the linear accelerator broke down.  All of a sudden I was having flashbacks to Bill Bixby as the incredible Hulk and wondering if that could possibly happen to me if things went wrong.  From that point on, I was not just a number or patient, she treated me like a person, who needed extra care.  When I found her, she was still working in the field of radiation technology.  And she was so thrilled to see me, while at the same time, apologetic.  She was sorry for the issues that have developed as a result of my radiation treatment, and she assured me that while they knew radiation was bad, they had no idea just how bad.  But today, the technology today is just so improved, less radiation and more refined and direct radiation is better that than the massive doses of scattered field like I received.  With computers and technology, the field of radiation oncology has improved so dramatically.

Brenda was my oncology nurse.  She was the difference between cure and fate, literally.  As my employer argued for better health coverage for me, she did all that she could to ease my fears about chemotherapy.  And when it was finally decided that I could have my treatments done in the office, under her care, I knew I was going to make it.  Brenda had a mother touch about her.  I was not just a patient to her.  I could have been her son.  My questions about the unknown from the chemo were always addressed because of her.  My fears, put to rest.  My ability to tolerate the treatments, and fight each cycle, was because of her care.  Brenda had retired by the time I had found her, but she was actually volunteering in the hospital where I was treated.  She was now concentrating completely on the gift that she possessed from the time that I met her and beyond, care and empathy.  She was still doing what she did best, comforting those dealing with one of the most scary things a person can face, cancer.

Illona was my advocate, my counselor, my rock.  When I was my most scared, she is the one who would act on my part, reaching out to the doctors that something needed to be better explained to me, or just needed to vent.  Sadly,  I never got to tell her how much she meant to me, as the cruelest of ironies, she passed away several years ago, to the disease that she counseled so many, cancer.

CURE Magazine every year offers a contest for the caregiver in cancer that was influential in their treatments.  But the patient themselves have to write the entry.  If you have someone in your life, who made that difference to a patient (or yourself) in a battle with cancer, what better way could you honor or pay tribute to someone who has made the ultimate emotional sacrifice caring for so many, and knowing that they may not survive.

Noreen, Brenda, and Illona (I know you are up in Heaven), thank you.  I could not have done it without you.

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