For Christine Stone, MSN, RN, OCN, oncology was the only choice. After completing an externship between her junior and senior years in nursing school at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia, she accepted one of just 2 new graduate positions there. "The position being offered happened to be on the oncology unit," she says.
Twenty-seven years later, she remains committed to oncology, which she now describes as a calling. As a nurse navigator, Stone says, she learns something every day on the journey with her patients from diagnosis to survivorship.
During her tenure as a nurse, Stone earned her master’s degree and oncology certified nurse accreditation and has implemented evidence-based practices to help both patients and colleagues. She has held numerous positions besides her current one, including inpatient nurse, stem cell transplant coordinator, and radiation oncology nurse. She also mentored colleagues as an oncology nurse educator, and although she found it rewarding, she tremendously missed working directly with patients. Overall, she says, each role helped her to become a better nurse navigator.
Through the Life with Cancer program, Stone blends her love for teaching with patient care. This nonprofit organization, an integral part of the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, provides wellness and educational programs for patients and their families. She also facilitates monthly support groups focused on breast cancer and women’s survivorship.
Stone connects with community resources and foundations that provide support to cancer patients in varying forms—postoperative mastectomy baskets, transportation, house cleaning, food delivery, and crisis funds. "I have seen over and over again the support these foundations provide patients and the impact it makes on them as they go through their treatments, just to know someone in the community cares," she says.
Stone’s commitment extends to her family. She and her husband of 22 years were high school sweethearts who now have 3 children— young-adult twins (a son and daughter) and a 16-year-old son. All are very involved with cancer-related fundraising events, Stone says, and her daughter is considering a nursing career.
Guided as a nurse by her strong faith in God, Stone also believes that the devastating news of a cancer diagnosis can produce some gifts. "These are not always seen or understood immediately, but the random acts of kindness—the outpouring of support shown by complete strangers, friends, or families— can truly be a gift to many," she says.
A participant in many major events in her patients’ lives, Stone has attended weddings, graduations, parties and funerals. Recently, she helped a patient, who had been fighting metastatic breast cancer for years, to share a milestone moment with her daughter. “During the last year of her life, I got to know her, since she was hospitalized a lot,” Stone says of the patient. “She always tried to keep things normal for her 3 girls.”
Stone knew that the patient was nearing the end of her life, and when she learned that the woman’s youngest daughter would soon graduate from high school, Stone helped bring the graduation to her. She phoned the high school principal, as well as the counselor, some teachers and other staff members.
Wearing caps and gowns, they came to the hospital and awarded the student her diploma at her mother’s bedside. The principal read letters from the daughter’s teachers, the cafeteria made a cake, and members of the hospital’s music therapy program played in the background. "It was so wonderful," Stone says. Her patient died that night.
Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions
Oncology Nursing News discussion group.