04/04/2012 02:07 EDT | Updated 06/04/2012 05:12 EDT

In Appreciation of All Oncology Nurses


The theme of National Oncology Nursing Day this year, "Partners in Care: Advocating for Excellence," highlighted the very important role that oncology nurses play in Canada's health care system.

Oncology nurses are front and centre with patients and their families in their search for a cure. They care and support us, not only through the stress of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, but as cancer survivors as well.

I met my oncology nurse when I was diagnosed with eight rounds of chemotherapy following my double mastectomy. Dail was the one who came to see how I was doing during each of my treatments. She was the one who gave me the information I needed during the whirlwind visit at the hospital when I was first diagnosed. Would I have thought of where I was to go to buy a wig? Would I have known that my hair would start falling out 10 days after my first treatment? Would I have been really worried when the tips of my fingers started tingling and I didn't know why? Dail was there with the answers.

But even more importantly, she is still there for me today. In fact, I have often told her that she is even more important to me now. As a cancer survivor, the days of regularly gracing the hospital corridors are over. Yes, you visit often enough in the beginning, but it can gradually decrease to twice a year quickly enough. Once treatments are over, it could be a scary world out there for a survivor. The security blanket of seeing your doctor regularly and getting to ask the many questions you want answered is gone. The power you feel while going through treatment is positive, and it gives you a feeling of being actively involved in your cure. It really is empowering.

You have a more passive role after treatment. Yes, many patients change their lifestyles for the better. They eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and find time for themselves. Your future lies partly in the hands of fate, and partly in the positive thinking of the mind.

Enter nurse Dail. When I was a fresh cancer survivor, I spent many hours reading information about breast cancer and survival. I was up to date with the latest treatments. I read articles regarding vitamins and the benefits of exercise. I learned how to meditate and how to practice yoga. I joined survivour groups and inspiring websites online. With all this new information came more questions. And when I had them, I would email Dail. She would always answer promptly, and with time I felt increasingly secure in the thought that I knew she would always be there for me.

So on behalf of all cancer patients and their families, I would like to extend a heartfelt word of appreciation and thanks to all oncology nurses out there, who are our teachers, yet our pupils all at the same time. They are a dedicated group of people, who often put the needs of their patients first. They play a valuable role in the lives of cancer patients and the teams that treat them. And a special thanks to Dail for all your years of support. We are lucky to have you.