I felt it coming. The knot in my throat. The air started to escape me. My heart started pounding so fast I felt like I had just ran a mile. This feeling had been there before, but this time it was different. There was no stopping the tears that were about to flow.
I woke up the other day, got ready for work and took the 20 minute drive in. By all accounts, it was a normal day. I was finishing my 3rd shift of the week and knew 3 days off awaited me after 715pm. It has been a hard year in pediatric oncology around the world, but as nurses, we somehow, someway, push through. There’s no words to explain the day I had. It was just different. There wasn’t one scenario I could tell you that made me feel like I could break down and cry 12 hours after my shift ended, but something was wrong and my body was telling me.
I woke up the next morning, greeted by my precious Fynn who I made take 5 pictures with me much to his dismay, got my coffee and headed outside to watch the birds. I scrolled through Instagram and came across a story of an 18 year old cancer survivor who had just passed away. Per her mom’s Instagram, she passed away from years of toxic treatment effects on her body. She went into multi-organ failure, while cancer free and ultimately entered her heavenly home with her family by her side.
Unfortunately, seeing stories like hers aren’t unusual for me. I see it often. I follow stories of cancer stealing kids every single day. I see toxic treatments kill kids more often than you could imagine. But that morning? It just hit me different and I can’t explain why. Cancer is picking off kids as if they were standing in a line up, one by one, and there are few people trying to stop it.
Bad things happen to really good people. I can’t understand it, not for the life of me. Recently, I heard of a little boy who developed a life threating disease, post cancer treatment. “It’s always the good ones, always” I mumbled. “Do you ever think about how often we see some really messed up things? How we just deal with it?” asked one of my best friends and coworker, Avery. “I do” I replied. “All the time.”
I’m stoic. I’m professional. I do my job, and I do it well. I’ve built myself to save emotions for when I’m home, as any good nurse will tell you. I rarely let emotions get me, mainly it’s anger and anger can be a huge motivation to keep pushing and raising awareness for what you believe in and I’ll never, ever stop fighting for childhood cancer patients. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced a TON of heartbreak in this field, but I know that I’ve also kept my heart guarded for the sake of my mental health. When the air began to escape me, I could feel the volcano erupting and 2+ years of anger, sadness, loss, fear, grief, and uncertainty came to a screeching halt.
I’m terrified. I’m terrified that kids are going to continue to keep relapsing, spending years in the hospital and dying and people are going to keep living their lives as if it doesn’t exist. It might not be publicly recognized like measles are, but we are in another state of crisis yall, and it’s called childhood cancer.
I cried today. For your child. For you. For your family. For the unfair treatment. For more than 4. For me. For my coworkers. For the physicians. For life. For the tragedy of death. But I also rose back up, cleaned up my wounds and started back the work to continue to heal theirs.