October 17, 2010

Nurse Nephew and His Nurse Wife

Today I received a nice email from a nephew who is deep into his nurse training.  His charming and totally fantastic wife - who thankfully does not yet fully understand that marrying into the Motschenbacher family might not have been the smartest decision she has ever made - completed her nurse train not too many months backs. They both made the decision to become nurses after serving in Iraq in-your-face combat postings. They have enjoyed seeing my observations about the medical personnel that have been so much a part of me the last two months.  I sent these words back to Nephew Niles:

"I have quickly come to realize that as much as I THOUGHT I knew about cancer treatment (1) before even getting the cancer and (2) additionally from all the info I studied after the discovery, I didn't know squat.  As my unique treatment path was laid out in a plan and I took the first steps, my confidence suddenly fell away when I came face to face with what those words I had read actually meant. I felt so utterly empty inside because I could not translate those words into what they would mean to my body and my senses.

I could not translate the words into sensations I could confidently simulate of what lay ahead for me; smells, emotions, fear, anxiety and panic attacks, pain levels, the visual impact of seeing black and blue surgery hammering on my body, tubes going through my skin and muscles into my stomach and jugular vein, deadly radiation beams going in one side of me and out the other while my body lay flat and my head is solidly locked into a single position for 20 minutes a day for seven weeks.  And on and on. 

Like you say, Niles, all these unwanted / unpredicted circumstances occur within an atmosphere of jargon, equipment, procedures and autonomy that are alien to my “normal' lifestyle and most certainly way outside even my perverse comfort zone.

I felt very much alone as I approached the first individual battleground - some rather extensive surgery - of this war on the cancer trying to kill me. 

But I was not alone I soon discovered.  I found out quickly that the doctors and nurses seemed acutely aware of what I was feeling - nearly all without them thankfully not having had persona experience immersed in these sensations. Just as remarkable as their abnormally heightened sensitivity is their ability to understand that my cancer battle is worst than others but not nearly as bad as that of other patients. I believe it must take a remarkable amount of raw knowledge magically mixed with incredible compassion and empathy for a nurse to move from patient to patient while automatically shifting his or her own senses to ones that can "feel" what that patient is feeling. 

I have observed that while one cancer patient needs Motherly Love and baby-like pampering from their nurse, others want to be treated like someone with a bad rash.  Each patient is an individual with his or her own boundaries, beliefs, communications and people skills or lack thereof, and interpersonal contact needs. It would seem that each nurse needs to be generously gifted with the ability to make a quick personality read of each patient that comes under their care.

I chose to try to be happy to be there with my nurse, respectful and a good student following their every word with eyes that must sometimes scare them because of my intense desire to KNOW what is happening and what will be the after effect of what is happening now.  I am one of those people who do not like surprises.  On the other hand, I have met fellow warriors who do NOT want to know what is coming next, instead preferring to just let things unfold. 

I do so very much enjoy the discovery that people I am going to have to spend a lot of time with - my male and female nurses - can be playful like me when it is appropriate and that they too desires to add that step away from cold professionalism into our time together.  I have always believed that anything worth doing no matter how serious, how dangerous, how distasteful, had some humor inside of it if you just look for it.  I know some must be horrified to see me bring humor to my personal dance with something trying to kill me.  I hope they can learn to accept it because the presence of that humor is solid proof that deep down in the deepest depths of my core I know this war is worth doing and not a waste of time and money."

The world will be a far better with you two taking care of us....
Love ya,
Uncle Buck