Recently, I met a 20-year-old who wants to become an oncologist. He's completed a GED and is currently taking art classes at a community college. During coursework, he took a science class and liked what he saw on a glass slide through a microscope. That's when he decided to become an oncologist. He asked for my opinion.
Our conversation reminded me of the only writers workshop I've ever attended. As participants made introductions around the library table where we sat, I described myself as an artist and writer developing a body of work about my experiences as a registered nurse. The lack of enthusiasm and eye rolling expressed by the group clearly indicated my plan was ridiculous. During lunch break, a fellow participant actually said as much to me, "You know, it takes an MFA to become either an artist or a writer."
There's a saying in poker: If you look around the table and can't tell who the rube is, it's probably you. At this table, surrounded by other wannabe writers, I was the rube.
A few weeks later, I submitted two short stories, "Voyagers" and "Icarus Again," to the publisher of an anthology of nurse stories, and both were published. Since then, my writing and artwork have been published nationally many times. A local art critic favorably reviewed my first art exhibition fresh out of art school, which is more difficult to achieve than it sounds.
I think about this a lot while hooking up chemotherapy infusions to patients with advanced, metastatic cancers. Their prognoses are terrible. It's impossible to know what I'd choose unless faced with similar choices, but sometimes I think I'd sit on a tropical beach staring at the ocean until the end, and not spending my last few weeks or months in the oncology clinic fighting the odds. That's when I remind myself that any patient is perhaps one of that small statistic of people who survive or go into remission, allowing them one more birthday, Christmas celebration, family wedding, or grandchild's graduation.
If there is no hope, then why am I an oncology nurse?
What are your thoughts? Which is the larger transgression: offering overly optimistic hope or being a gatekeeper? How is this idea reconciled with diminishing healthcare dollars?
The Gatekeeper or the Lock?