I recently vacationed at a beach and played in the waves of the great Atlantic Ocean. It was a great and relaxing time, but being the oncology nurse that I am, I could not help but draw an analogy from my time there.
As I was sitting under my umbrella with sunscreen smeared all over my body (practicing what I preach), I looked out at the wide expanse of water and watched the waves roll in. I saw those who were out riding the waves up and down without mishap. They looked peaceful and relaxed, and they seemed to be enjoying their time with their loved ones.
But suddenly, without warning, a huge wave would come crashing in, breaking sooner than most and catching people unawares. The water would crash over their heads and knock them off their feet. For a brief moment, it seemed as if they would never reappear. Loved ones who managed to keep their footing would look around frantically, and then a head would bob in the water. The loved one, though shaken, had survived the powerful force.
I could not help but think of my patients and how they go about their treatments. They manage fairly well and settle into their routine, and then the waves come crashing in. A side effect resulting in hospitalization, progression, or recurrence of disease knocks them off their feet. Loved ones stand by helpless, and there is fear that all is lost. But then side effects are managed, a new treatment regimen is begun, and these people settle back into the more gentle ups and downs of the rolling waves.
During my vacation, I was knocked down by one of those huge, crushing waves. It knocked me off my feet and made me swallow gallons of salt water. I experienced a great fear and wondered if I would survive to resurface. My fear paled in comparison to those who experience the daily wrath of cancer, but I felt I could somewhat identify with them.
Of course, I did not let this misadventure stop me. I ventured out a little farther and settled once again into the slow, rolling waves -- just as my patients gather their courage and continue on their way. The fortitude and resilience of those going through cancer treatment never ceases to amaze me.