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Michele Longabaugh is a wife, a mother of three children, a registered nurse and a small business owner in the Midwest. In February 2010, she was diagnosed with stage IV anal cancer. She hopes to shatter the stigma and fight the loneliness that accompanies this devastating type of cancer. Follow her on Twitter at @CrazyAssCancer
"Just" a Nurse
Let me introduce myself
PUBLISHED: 3:31 AM, WED OCTOBER 8, 2014
When I was asked to contribute to this site as a nurse contributor, I have to be honest, I told them "You've got the wrong girl!" You see, my gig is cardiology. I just happen to be a nurse that has stage IV anal cancer. After a few more e-mails I was convinced that I could perhaps add value to Oncology Nursing News so here I am typing my first entry.
I am not new to blogging. I started writing during my diagnosis and it has been a catharsis to me over the last almost five years now. I never knew how very important people in my own profession would become to me. Nursing care and compassion is completely under-rated. I can only describe the oncology nurses that I have known as invaluable. I would not be here without them. I hope that what I write here will be of value to you.
A bit of background on me and my cancer. I am a wife, mother and RN located in the Midwest. About five years ago I had what I thought was a flare up of hemorrhoids and sciatica. I actually waited three months to address the bleeding, itching and leg pain. I self diagnosed and self treated for too long. When I went for my annual GYN visit I asked him to please check it out for me. Thus started my journey to diagnosis. It took about a month but on World Cancer Day in 2010 I was diagnosed with anal cancer with metastasis to my sacral bone. I had a large tumor crushing my sciatic nerve. Naturally my family and I were devastated. My prognosis was quite poor with my "poorly differentiated" squamous cell cancer splashed unceremoniously across my biopsy reports. I had none of the risk factors and up until this point had been very healthy. Needless to say I felt the stigma and shame that comes with such an unbearable cancer. As we prepared for the upcoming treatments and I recovered from my surgery (I had the sacral tumor removed) I made a choice to step through the judgment. No one deserves to have cancer. Blame does not lay at the feet of the victims. Blame does not belong. I was successfully, and painfully, treated and remained NED (No Evidence of Disease) for 2 years. My cancer returned in my right lung which I underwent resection of. It didn't stay gone long returning again six months later. I underwent chemo and radiation targeting my right lung and am one year NED this month.
Throughout my all treatments I was the recipient of the most compassionate care ever known. Physicians and staff always were working in harmony but nurses were the "touch stone" for my care. They were my strength, my hand holders, the giver of the nectar, pain medicine, and the chemotherapy that would rid my body of cancer. They were the ones that looked into my eyes through to my lilting soul when words escaped me knowing what needed to be passed on to the doctors and other staff. They were in charge of my well being. I never really understood how important my job was as a nurse was until I was a patient. You know, over the years when asked what my job was I sometimes would utter "I am just a nurse." I am here to refute that statement. The job we do as nurses is vital and very important. Think of that when you are caring for your cancer patients. None of us, not one, is "just" a nurse!
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More from Michele Longabaugh, RN
Palliative care is for the living.
PUBLISHED: Tue February 26 2019
My training as a registered nurse helped me as I developed long-distance relationships with several women who have anal cancer--I call them my “virtual sorority sisters.”
PUBLISHED: Thu October 25 2018
A look at how writing is a means of self expression and stress relief for a nurse who is also cancer survivor.
PUBLISHED: Wed May 30 2018
Cancer touches the caregiver as much as the patient, and that position comes with it's own, unique emotional tolls.
PUBLISHED: Thu March 23 2017