Coping with cancer.


Teresa is tired.   Her six month old baby kept her up most of the night, teething and she felt really guilty leaving her today to do a twelve hour shift on the HDU.

Still Teresa likes her job.  She gives one to one care on the unit to people who need special treatment and today her patient is “Michael” a 72 year old man who has had major surgery. and needs constant care and observation for while, till his blood pressure stabilises..

Teresa smiles at Michaels wife, who looks so different  to the strained  woman who was here last night. Tonight she is bright eyed and relaxed.   Teresa had sensed the tension in her when the woman had arrived, only  to find her husband still in theatre after goodness know how many hours.   Teresa had made her a cup of tea and gave her some magazines to read to pass the time.

Teresa has no idea how much this small act of empathy and kindness meant to the woman at the time.

You really get to know people on a twelve hour shift.  Sometimes you don’t always like them, but hey, they are human beings in an anxious and  vulnerable state and sometimes that makes people grumpy. or whiney.  Often that is a sign they are getting better.  The really poorly ones are often quiet and compliant.  When they get better and can be transferred to the wards, you get a great feeling of satisfaction, a job well done.

Occasionally it does not work out that way and somebody dies.  Of course that makes you sad.  and it always makes you question if you could have done better. Even when you know you have done all you could.    You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.  But in the main the good outcomes outweigh the bad.

There are four beds on the unit and four colleagues.  Amy and Jo are excitedly planning a trip to Turkey together .  Can you imagine?, two weeks away from bleeping heart monitors and blood pressure alarms,    flashing infusion pumps  and oxygen catheters.    Two weeks of sun sea and relaxation. away from the fatigue of the four -o -clock -in the -mornng energy crash, when sometims you just can’t think straight.    Oh it will be heaven!

 They show the brochure to the others.  But Jo and Amy are worried today because they don’t really know if the manager will allow them  the time off together.

The fourth member of the team is Joyce.   Joyce is thinking  “I am getting too old for this” the long hours and emotionally draining work is getting a bit too much for her and she is planning to retire in a couple of months.   As the date approaches Joyce is finding it more and more difficult.  She is so looking forward to being able to lie in in the morning , but she is dreading missing her team…. and the patients too.   She will miss feeling she is making a difference.   She spends most of her time off, relaxing.    Too tired to do anything active.  When she retires she is going to travel.  She will go to see her daughter and her grandchildren in Australia.  Joyce is also dreaming of taking up painting, something she has always wanted to do since art classes at school.  Many years ago.

Michaels wife sits and observes while her husband dozes.  She follows the nurses with her eyes as they go about their work. She notices everything. She hears everything,  every little  nuance of their body language.  Every word they say.   Every smile every sigh every expression .  Almost as if the anxiety had made her super sensitive as she scans their faces for clues of what the future will hold.

She notices that Teresa has the most beautiful eyes.  Clear green with long dark lashes.  She notices that Teresa used those eyes to keep eye contact with her husband  while she patiently listened to one of his stories, in between calmly checking his machines, drips, drains and urine bag.

For now the woman id SO grateful that her husband can have such wonderful care from these kind women.  Everybody has been exceptionally  kind,  except the one  theatre transfer nurse last night, who barked at her to wait in the waiting room, when she anxiously stood at the door.  These nurses do not realise how hypersensitive worried relatives are.

The woman is so relieved he has come through the surgery for cancer.

Just for today she feels they are safe in their hands.

Love Denise



  1. Oh how you make me think of my mother. If you feel like leaving a note in “Your Stories” on the nursescaring site, I’d be hinored to have it there. Having lunch with some of your Paris friends so we’ll think of you both! Bisous


    • Thanks for dropping by Michael. Certainly I will go over to the nursescaring site. Experiences like this really change your perspective of nursing care. Being a patient and carer should be an obligatory part of nurse and doctor training
      Hope you have nice lunch..


        • Michael, I think your mums memorial fund is such a wonderful thing. It is so important that nurses (and doctors ) are taught the importance of these caring skills and not just the practical skills and how to use a computer programme.

          . Michael is on an “enhanced recovery programme and is making a miraculous recovery. I can’t believe it.

          He had got a bit to the grumpy stage yesterday, (with me not the nurses!LOL!) so I know he is getting better.

          The caregiver is having a day off and going out for lunch with a friend!

          Love Denise


  2. Very poignant…it reminded me of the endless hours that turned into days while my mom was dying at the IC Unit (Intensive Care) We also met amazing nurses both women and men that were really putting all their love into caring for their patients, but there were a couple that couldn’t care less…to them it was like an annoyance.
    Doctors were the worst, cold and at times very dehumanized…

    Your writing describing this place is beautiful.
    I hope you’re out of there soon and MIchael can go home fast to start recovering.

    Sending you my best thoughts…


  3. You never forget experiences like this and the little things that meant so much. Sorry you found the doctors cold and dehumanized.

    Actually we have had the opposite experience, but I think a lot of this is due to the “enhanced recovery programme” Michael is on.

    It is a research based approach. Apparently people recover better if they are prepared physically and psychologically and are pain free. Therefore, this programme includes them knowing all the team who will be involved in their care. So we had conversations with everybody from the health care assistant to the surgeon prior to the surgery and discussed the procedure and their role etc. . . Although this is meant to be for the patients benefit, I think the spin off from this is that the medical/ nursing staff know the person as a human being and not just an unconscious body on a table. So the patient becomes more human.

    Love Denise


  4. Thank you for writing this Denise. I’ve spent the last several days with my dear aunt who is in the final stage of her long, creative life. I’ve been struggling to verbalize how much I appreciate what the nurses and the entire hospital staff have done for her. To do this with kindness and compassion day after day for patients who usually aren’t aware of what’s going on – well I think it takes a very special person to do this work. I brought in some of my aunt’s paintings and showed them to her nurses – I think they appreciated learning a little more about the woman they were caring for.

    Thanks again for writing this beautiful piece. I will continue to keep Michael and you in my thoughts and prayers.


    • Sorry to hear about your Aunt, Janet. How nice for you to bring the painting for the nurses. I think you have verbalised very well how you feel about the se nurses in this reply.

      Thanks again for your prayers……sending good karma to you and your aunt. May she be surrounded by peace and love.

      Love Denise.


I love to hear your thoughts on my blog. please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.