I’m a nurse. I wear a uniform. It puts me on the other side. ‘They’ are sick and I help ‘them’ get well. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. But one day it was different. There was a diagnosis and the diagnosis was mine. “I have three kids. I’m a nurse. This can’t be true. It must be a mistake.” I was in complete denial. But denial can’t cure cancer and I was forced to come to terms with it.
My husband was the opposite of me. He had been a paramedic and a firefighter, also helping others. But he reacted in exactly the opposite way of me. He was not in denial at all. In fact, he googled the disease and got a lot of information.. That was his way of coping. He was very aware of every negative aspect. I had AML, a very aggressive type of disease. Without the bone marrow transplant, I had a 23% of surviving.
I was in the hospital for 7 months. The hardest part was being away from my kids. Some people might wonder what a mother does all day besides washing dishes and pressing buttons on the washing machine. But every mother knows that the main job is being there for your kids. And now my kids had their worries about Mommy and I couldn’t be there to kiss the boo-boo and make it all go away. It was hard. I tried my best via the phone and computer but it wasn’t the same. I arranged playdates for them, set up a birthday party. I really tried but it wasn’t like being there. My kids would come every week for a short time and each time they seemed more mature. I was missing all that growing. The disconnect was so hard.
My mother flew in. Either she or my husband was with me at all times. I was in isolation for so many months. Being alone would have made that unbearable.
My uncle, a pediatric oncologist in Israel, was very supportive. He kept telling us that statistics are just numbers. You can be cured. Then it will be 100% good health for you. Don’t pay attention to statistics. Those were very wise words.
When I heard Ezer Mizion had a genetically matching donor, I felt overwhelming gratitude. I was beyond thankful. But I still couldn’t accept it. Was it really true? Will it really happen? Maybe he’ll back out. Maybe there will be some glitch at the end. I was so scared it wouldn’t work.
Well, it’s over now. I’m healthy. My husband went back to work and so did I. Things are the same but not really. After the experience, I feel so much more vulnerable. I know that my uniform doesn’t keep me safe and things can happen, even to me. I’m so grateful now for every day and I am so much more compassionate to my patients. I understand so much more how a caring nurse can make a difference. I can emphasize with them. All in all, I think I’m a better person because of the experience.
Now that I’m on the other side, I feel I have a message for others just beginning the journey. Remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t think you have to be a rock. Forgive yourself if you can’t be what you would like to be. And when it comes time to reintegrate into the normal world, remember you’re still vulnerable. Take it slow. Don’t try to prove anything. It’s hard integrating into normal life. There’s plenty of help out there. Don’t feel embarrassed to take it.