Tuesday, November 05, 2013

About Sara

I've been writing this post in my head for several days. I just decided I wanted to tell you about a lady who was one of my first chemotherapy patients. She was also my dear friend.

When I first met Sara, I was working as the only nurse in a one-doctor office.  I'd not been giving chemotherapy very long. Sara likely was pretty frightened that first visit, but she didn't really show it. Her family was terrified. We all knew she was in for an ordeal.

Sara was a nurse. That was maybe our first connection. Our strongest connection, though, was our Christian Faith. We quickly formed a bond of mutual respect and friendship. I grew to love her dearly. I think I probably took care of her over about a 3 year period. Early on, while we were still in the solo doctor clinic, we had a lot of time visiting with just the two of us in the room. Later, when we merged with a larger clinic, other nurses sometimes did Sara's chemotherapy but I always thought of her as my patient.

Sara was kind and funny and quick-witted and musical and friendly and so much more. As grim as her situation became, she always had a joyful spirit. One winter she and her family were going on a trip to somewhere exotic. She wanted to make the most of the time she had, leave her family with beautiful memories. They were driving to Denver (about 4 hours away) to catch their flight. Unfortunately, they got caught in a snowstorm and were stuck in Cheyenne, WY for three days at a hotel. When they returned, rather than whine about the trip they didn't get to take, she laughed and told me all the fun they had while stuck in Cheyenne! That was the kind of person she was.

Sara always remained a nurse. Often, when she arrived, she "worked the room" before going to her treatment chair. She would smile and greet all the other patients. She was especially attentive to new patients. Her easy nature helped others relax. Sometimes she'd offer to get someone a blanket or something else she thought they might need. Like I said, she always remained a nurse.

As Sara's health got worse, she just got sweeter. She still always asked a lot about me and my family, told me stories about her's. Even after she no longer received chemo and was under the care of hospice nurses, she welcomed me into her home for visits. I was touched when I was shown that she had my photo on her refrigerator. It was sad to watch as her body started to shut down, but her spirit remained bright. As I watched her approach death, I wondered if I would be able to do so as graciously as did she.

On Halloween 2008, working at the oncology center,  we received the call near the end of the day. We were expecting this news. Sara was gone. I don't really remember how the day ended but I remember calling Mike just before I headed home, telling him of Sara's death. Of course, it was no surprise. Mike had met Sara but didn't know her well. He just knew that she was important to me.

When I arrived home that day Mike met me at the door. He didn't say a word; he just held open his arms for me. Although I had been trying to act brave, he knew I just needed to mourn.

Now, five years later, I still feel so grateful for the time I got to know that sweet lady. Sometimes when I am dealing with something difficult, particularly if it is related to my work as a nurse, I go to Sara's grave to sort it out.


Actually, just standing by Sara's grave, I can see tombstones with other familiar names, other patients I once treated. It is sad but also it makes me feel honored to have been a part of their lives when they were in need.

This is kind of a strange post. I don't have any tidy way to get to any particular point. Is this a post to remember a dear friend? Is this a post about how nurses handle grief? Is this a post about how blessed I am to have a good husband who held me as I cried? Is this a post about living each given day to the fullest?

The answer to each of those questions is, "Yes."