LR was the first patient that made me feel like I was actually a nurse. She needed me and I, in some ways, needed her. She gave me confidence and hope and strength. Gosh, the strength of that woman you couldn’t believe. LR had lymphoma, the third life threatening cancer she has encountered in her near four decades of life. This was the first thing that captured me-what a person, what a fight this person has had to get this far, and then to be told this final cancer might be the one to end her life.
She was the first patient that made me feel any good as a nurse, the patient that, when I looked into her eyes, showed me that I was needed. Whatever the time or need, I would be there. She was my soft spot. As weeks went past they tried chemo after chemo and finally a new treatment that was supposedly going to be the breakthrough in the haematology world. LR grew weak, separated from her loving husband and sweet young daughter she leaned on us for support and we gave it, because she was part of our team now and we wanted desperately to save her life. So so many nights I stayed up with her as she rigored in bed, bled from her back and cried through the fear. So many days I made her smile and laugh so she would know that she wasn’t alone, timing her endless medication and transfusions she needed just to get through a day.
Months went by and nothing changed, it was day in, day out and nothing. Slowly, she deteriorated. The treatment didn’t work.
One day I came in, they told me she wasn’t right. She was not well at all and stared blankly into the walls and barely into my eyes when I got her attention. Her husband sat on a chair next to her bed, his torso covering her in protection, exhausted. Unable to speak or move properly, I did everything I could to make her well again but many hours passed and LR went to the ICU. Holding her hand, and holding her husband as he cried, we went down there. When I came back up, LR did not. “I’ll come and visit you” I said, as I finished my handover to the ICU nurse and squeezed LR’s hand gently, thinking in my head “please don’t go”.
I walked briskly out and back to the ward, taking some time looking over the view at the window with tears streaming from my eyes and no body around to tell me everything would be alright.
I gathered myself, went back to my colleagues and finished my shift, smiling kindly at my remaining patients like my heart hadn’t just broken a little. That was the hardest, the pretending. LR was on my mind.
The following morning I woke to a text. “RIP LR”, and as tears broke out from behind my eyes, I sobbed in my room, grief ridden. It was so quick. I had tried to do so much the day before, to save some time from the horrible inevitability of her death, but it had been futile. Though now when I think of it, it had all been for her. All those sleepless nights and busy days, they were all done in the projection of her own beautiful hope. She knew that ultimately she wasn’t going to make it but she tried, and she fought with everything in her and i saw that. She made me want to fight for her with everything in me. We both lost her fight.
I still see her face, even in the room that was once hers, I see the memories. I can’t remember all the things that happened, but I remember everything that I felt and that is what will last. I see her husband in my head, and her beautiful daughter who now needs to be so brave. I see the food that she liked and feel her hand squeezing mine like that one time she was having cells taken from her back.
She was so weak at the end but I’d never met anyone stronger.
I am so grateful to have known her, and I’m proud to be me. I hope I can be as strong as her.