As we all know, the holidays are upon us. Very soon we will be celebrating Thanksgiving, and just a month after that Christmas, then New Year's. These are holidays when we often spend time with our families. We spend time reflecting on the blessings in our lives. Every time a holiday comes and goes, I am slightly saddened that so many patients are in the hospital.
I think we often think of the important milestones in life -- getting married, being able to attend a child's graduation or wedding, seeing the birth of a child or grandchild. We often treat patients to get them to see these milestones in their lives or the lives of their family. I wonder how often we think of allowing them just one more holiday celebration.
Last year, we had a mother with two very young children. She wasn't expected to live until Christmas. Heck, I think they were even thinking she would pass before Thanksgiving without treatment. She continued to receive chemotherapy treatments just to keep the cancer at bay so that she could hopefully make it to Christmas. Just in case, the staff raised money for or donated gifts for the family so they could have an early celebration. Luckily, she lived past Christmas, and even made it eight more months. But I can't help wonder why we don't try this more.
I am thankful for each celebration I can have with my family, but I am also never saddened to miss one because I have to work. I knew when I started nursing that I would have to work some holidays. I have never missed a celebration, though -- some have just been spent with my work family.
What about New Year's? It's not always a holiday spent with family, but it is one spent celebrating another year passing and another year that's to come.
I remember another experience with another patient. She had been fighting her cancer for a very long time. Although the first couple years were not that bad, she had reached end-stage, though she and her husband refused to admit this. I worked New Year's Eve this particular year. This patient mentioned during her assessment that she was looking forward to the New Year. It would be out with the bad and in with the good. "We are going to take two steps forward at midnight," she said. (This patient had not done more than sit on the side of the bed in about two weeks.) She asked us to join her, and we'd do the steps together. A new beginning for all.
We joined her in her room at midnight. Lo and behold, she did get out of bed and take two steps. It was her symbolism of hope. I don't think I'll ever forget this moment. It was definitely the most memorable New Year's Eve I've ever had. I admired her dedication to her belief in well being. A few days later, she told me she knew God was in control of her illness and it would end how and when he wanted, but she would hold faith in him and his blessings until the day she died.
I can't help but wonder if working in oncology has given me, and others, a greater sense of thankfulness. I know it certainly has strengthened my faith in God.
What does the holiday season mean for you since you've been a part of cancer care?