I struggled for many days about whether or not I should share this post or leave it archived as "draft" only. However, this is my reality and in sharing, it keeps memories alive.
For four and a half years I worked as an Oncology Nurse on the inpatient floor of a Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. For those of you unfamiliar with the process- patients diagnosed with cancers of the blood will often undergo a Bone Marrow Transplant in order to achieve the only possible chance of remission. It involves extremely high doses of chemotherapy and sometimes radiation and often requires patients to be in the hospital for a minimum of 30 days. You can imagine the bonds you can form with another individual during this amount of time.
It is here that I've become a part of many families and watched my own "family" grow. I've learned the names of sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. I've learned anniversary dates, how relationships blossomed and shared personal stories and photographs. I've shared the best places to go on vacation and learned the best bottles of wine to drink with chicken. Needless to say, as much as I have taught my patients, it is from them that I've learned a thing or two about life along the way.
I've held many hands and cried on many bed sides. I've watched many men and women take their last breath. I've helped ease their pain. And I've witnessed miracles.
It takes a great degree of separation to keep one's sanity in this specialty. However, it's not always that easy. From the minute I met 19 year old K.O, I immediately took him under my wing and he became my pseudo-younger brother. We shared so many laughs in the hospital. He always reminded me why I love what I do. It wasn't always laughs. We cried together too and I was always there when he needed to be angry.
He taught me how to play the guitar and I even went ahead and bought an acoustic guitar of my own, thanks, in part, to his inspiration. No matter how hard I try, I can only play "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and a few chords of "Smoke on the Water." Ha!
I will always admire K.O. for his strength and determination in the face of such a terrible, often unrelenting, devil of a disease. Leukemia steals away the best the world has to offer. It stole the life of such a wonderful young man on January 19th, 2009.
My heart will always be with K.O. and his family as they have touched me in a way that I will never be able to explain.
I recently came across this quote which had me thinking more and more about how blessed I am to be given the chance to laugh/cry/heal and work with such amazing, admirable individuals.
"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others...for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received."