Hi friends! Happy Thursday.
Ooofta, it has been a tough week for me at work. As many of you know my full-time job is being a nurse on a unit that works with cancer + palliative care patients.
When most people hear that their response is “how can you do that?” It is a very heavy + emotionally challenging job. There are times where I do want to get away from the sadness and the death.
As one of my favorite patients transitions to more of a goal of comfort care and acceptance that her death is most likely near, I went in to her room to say goodbye.
I came in and said “Hi, it’s Amy.”
She opened her eyes and smiled. She immediately said “let me see you belly!” She was the very first patient that noticed I was pregnant and has been invested in our little bean since then. She even asked one of my friends + fellow nurse about me when I was on my two week vacation from work since she hadn’t seen me in a while. Her love for children is abundant, and she has been so supportive and encouraging about our first addition.
I appeased and tightened my clothing around the bump. She told me the baby was so cute, good luck, and that I would do great. I told her that I loved taking care of her and that it has been an absolute pleasure. We both had tears in our eyes when we parted ways.
I cried a lot after I left work and even typing that out makes the tears well up.
Here is what helps me get through a tough situation: if I didn’t have this job I would miss out on meeting some of the most wonderful people that I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet. A lot of patients teach me lessons as they are going through the toughest time in their entire life. The patients and their family members have taught me SO much about love.
Make everyday Valentine’s Day. A lesson from the patient I mentioned above. We asked if her and her husband celebrate Valentine’s Day and she told us they didn’t. They try to make every single day Valentine’s Day. I can tell you from experience that they really do. After many, many years of marriage they still both light up every time he would come into the room in the morning. The are incredibly loving and openly affectionate. He would often lean down and whisper into her ear and always kiss her head softly. In every relationship there will be some days that are better than others, but she would tell you to show your love and appreciation for the people that matter most every single day. Don’t wait for an anniversary or holiday to let them know.
Write a love letter. One time I helped another patient write his wife a love letter in the middle of the night. He drew pictures of every big milestone in their life: how they met, their wedding, when their children came, when their grandchildren came, and other important dates to them. Not only did he remember the dates, but he included things in the future he wanted to do with her when he was done being so sick. When she came in the next morning, she was brought to tears by his kind gesture. I know she will forever cherish that piece of paper. More so than the gifts that I have received from Drew, I cherish and remember the letters he has written me during different points in our relationship. I read them when I miss him or when I need a reminder of his love for me. We both leave each other small little love notes, especially during the stretches when we are on opposite schedules. We tell each other that we are lucky every single day. A hand written note is always better than a text or email. Don’t forget to let the people around you know how much you love them. The patients love the cards they receive, be the person that sends one.
When the going gets tough, be there. I get SO impressed with the love + dedication that people show when their loved one is going through their battle. One younger couple comes to mind when I think about this lesson. The wife slept in the hospital every.single.night. with her husband. If you’ve ever been in the hospital with a very sick person, you can appreciate her dedication. As a night-shift nurse, we try to provide a restful environment. However, the IV pumps, need for vital signs, sickness itself, medications scheduled, need for transfusions, etc. don’t always cooperate. We’re in the room a lot when you are sick, which means her sleep was constantly interrupted. One particular night, I was in there room no less than 20 times. Because her husband was receiving a few hazardous drugs, every time she needed to use the bathroom it was a long hike down to a different unit. Each day a shower meant heading down a few floors. Being with a very sick person means that it takes everything for them to (hopefully) get out of bed and go to the bathroom. They typically don’t leave their room more than a time or two a day. This means there is a lot of downtime for you too. For months, this woman stayed in that tiny room on her tiny cot. She was always sweet and always supportive, even when her spouse was not himself. Don’t underestimate the power of your love + support. Don’t underestimate the power of a visit. This was a true testament of her putting her spouse before herself, and it was an incredible love to witness.
Stay in love. I’ve had the opportunity to witness very long marriages because of this job. In our society, it has been a very refreshing experience. I do see all types of relationships + marriages. I can tell you that the happiest + longest ones seem to be the ones that really do keep the spark in their marriage. They keep the kind words + appreciation in the forefront. Just the other day I was talking to an old man about his wife. He said, “I’ll tell you Amy…she is the prettiest 90 year old you’ll ever see. Boy is she beautiful.” My heart melted onto the ground because I could tell how much he meant it by the look in his eyes. Speak highly of your significant other. Make sure you compliment them.
Learn how to support. This one is a personal lesson from my relationship with Drew. If you are a nurse or other health care provider that works with this population or another challenging population, inevitably your significant other gets pulled into the roller coaster of emotion. In the beginning when I would tell Drew something hard or sad, he would say “it’s okay”. But, I didn’t feel like it was or that his statement was helpful or supportive. In my head I would think, I just told you about a person our age dying. His children will grow up without knowing their daddy, his spouse is losing the love of her life after just a couple years of marriage…it’s anything but okay. It’s horrible, it’s unspeakable. I tear up typing it. Overtime, Drew has learned how to be a supportive husband. Just Sunday, after an incredibly tough shift he showed that he was there for me. He made me breakfast. He listened. His words were more thoughtful and heartfelt. He cancelled his morning plans of working out and going to church to instead hold me until I fell asleep. Here is the thing: you can’t expect your person to get it right away…just as we as new healthcare providers didn’t know how to cope right away. What you do need is to have a person that is ready and willing to learn and grow with you. A heartfelt thank you to my husband.
I know I said I would share recipes today, so if you are looking forward to that…no worries, they are still coming! This post was just on my heart and cathartic to write.
I hope everyone has a good and loving weekend. Xo. Ames.