I recently began working as a nurse on an oncology unit (oncology=cancer). I thought I would like working on this unit as our patients are often admitted multiple times throughout their treatment. This gives us (myself and coworkers) the opportunity to get to know them as a person and not just as a patient in room such and such. (Let me clarify that I do like working on this unit...very much.)
One thing I did not think about prior to this career was death. I know this may sound morbid but I didn't. I have had several grandparents die, but I was not close with them. The biggest loss I have personally experienced was having to put my dog, Beamer, down several summers ago. Even now, while I am typing, I am crying, as I miss my sweet girl.
Many of the patients I have cared for have passed away, even in the brief time I have been working. Most of them died on other shifts or at home. I have begun reading the local paper's obituary section scanning for patient names. Several weeks ago, one of my patient's died on my shift. Though I had not worked with them very much it still made me sad for the family.
Patients often recover from cancer...but sometimes they don't. Sometimes cancer takes them quickly and other times it is a long and painful process. Most of my patients have been older but sometimes they are young. When people die (or are dying) before what is considered a normal age how do we confront this? How do we deal with sudden and unexpected deaths?
On Friday, my class discussed loss and grief. We did an exercise where we had to pick a rock and then put it in a bucket telling the group who it was for. Everyone in my group had experienced a loss, we were all crying at the end of the exercise. We talked about how we deal with stress and looking back now I don't know that sewing/knitting are quite effective in dealing with emotions. (I will be thinking about how I can effectively deal with these emotions so i can remain mentally "healthy".)
On a happier note, last week my new (and first) nephew was born. He is a precious bundle of joy whom I love so very much! Funny as I was thinking about new life and death and how life is cyclical and was reminded of the song from The Lion King, Circle of Life. (Leave it to me to have some sort of movie reference to go with thoughts on death and life!) Everyday babies are born and everyday people die, life is a circle just as the song says.
There are many times when life is just plain unfair. But somehow we must comes to terms with it. We must learn from the situations we face, the pain we experience, hopefully coming out on the other side with a more compassionate and positive outlook on life. And be reminded that life is often too short. We must live every day as though it is our last. Live with no regrets. Cherish the important people in our lives. Tell them everyday that we love them. Do the things we want to do, take chances.