Angels in the chemo room

Chemotherapy is not fun, and the chemo room is not a place most folks want to be because there's nothing like having toxic chemicals pumped into your body to give you a bad attitude. So it takes a special person to be an oncology nurse.

My chemo treatments tend to take all day, so I have had the opportunity to observe the oncology nurses at Columbia Basin Hematology & Oncology at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center.

What I see helps me to realize they are truly angels.

In the chemo room, there are about a dozen chairs. At any given time, every one of them might be occupied by a cancer patient. We're all hooked up to an IV, which is pushing the drugs into our bodies. Every few minutes, an alarm will sound, usually to let one of the nurses know that it's time to hook up another drug, though it also could be a sign of a problem, such as an air bubble. The moment an alarm sounds, one or more nurses will show up to figure out what the issue is and handle it immediately.

I think it takes a special level of patience, kindness and insight to be an oncology nurse. Several times per day, cancer patients are greeted with hugs and warm wishes by the nurses. These angels listen to our stories, look at photos of children and grandchildren and work to solve issues related to the side effects of having cancer and receiving chemotherapy.

We cancer patients also get to know a little about them. During my second treatment, one nurse came to me because she heard I worked at the newspaper. She told me that she is on a roller derby team here in town and thought that might make a good story. She didn't look like the prototypical roller derby type I recall watching on TV when I was a kid. In fact, she looked like she wouldn't hurt a fly, so I've nicknamed her "Elbows" (using your elbows in this sport is against the rules).

I never hear complaints from these angels. In fact, I've watched one literally skip from patient to patient around the room in apparent happiness to be able to help. They are saving our lives - and they're happy and proud to do it.