Nurse don’t JUST save lives. Nurses save souls. Nurses are the ones who make sure the medication is correct and administer it. They are ones who hold hands when you cry. They are the ones who know you are having a bad day even when you say “todo bien.” Nurse give symptom advice and kisses on the cheek. They hold the needle just right to minimize pain. They call the doctor and tell him what is going on with blood work. They wear silly hats and take silly pictures with you. These nurse saved my life and they saved my soul. In my mind they should be the highest paid, most praised, and earn the greatest respect. They are my Day Care family and I love these women to the moon and back. And when you are fighting for your life, these are the women you want in your trenches. Thank you to Maria Rosa, Fiorella, Clara, Adriana, Victoria, Monica, y Mieriela!
Maria Rosa – The jefe. She is no-nonsense and very much in charge. She administered every single one of my Red Devils. She gowns up, masks up, and gloves up every single time because the chemo is just as harmful to her as it is to me. In fact, she must get tested every six months to make sure that she isn’t being affected by the drugs. She can give the eye better than anyone, especially when you are being silly and saying that you don’t want a port and think you can do six more chemos without one. She is the serious general you want leading your fight.
Fiorella – The angel. Some people have a calming presence. As soon as Fio walked into my room during my very first chemo, I felt that everything was going to be ok. Fio has this beautiful smile that never wanes. And she knows the power of touch. She holds hands, squeezes arms, and give hugs. She could always tell when I was overwhelmed with the Spanish and would come in to explain what she could in English. Fio is the angel you want watching over you when you are running straight into the fight.
Adriana – The healer. Adriana is Mom’s favorite nurse. My first session Mom and I were really overwhelmed. Maria Rosa had just explained everything in rapid Spanish. Mom and I were like what the fuck just happened?! Then Adriana came in. I hate needles more than anything. Adriana was in charge of putting in the IV. I turned my head away. She put her hand on mine and said in English, “It’s ok. A little pinch.” And I never felt a little pinch with her. Not a single time she gave me a shot, took my blood or put in IV after IV. And every time I walked in for blood draws or shots she always gave me a kiss and asked how I was doing. There were times I was so sick or tired and one kiss on the cheek from Adriana was enough to heal. Adriana is the person you want patching you up when life takes its shots.
Clara – The GUARDian. Clara may be small in stature but she will guard your life with all that she has. She was my second shift nurse. Chemo always took two shifts so Clara was the one who ended every chemo with me. She was the one to take away the “bad guy” drugs. She was the one who dealt with my reactions to the Tin Foil chemo during my first chemos. She was the one who made the phone calls when my blood cells were too low. I would pretty much sleep up until the last little bit of chemo and Clara was always there to watch over and make sure everything was going smoothly. Clara is the person you want to protect you when you cannot protect yourself.
Victoria – The CUREator – Victoria is the enfermera of Day Care. This means that she is in charge of all of the paper work. She keeps track of every fact about me and remembers it. She knows every cell count but also remembers every personal detail. Whenever she took my blood or gave me a shot, she would ask me something about my life outside of Day Care. And then she would remember what I told her and asked me more questions the next time. She knew all about my students and weekend plans. She knew what my mom was doing. Victoria is the person you want keeping all of the ducks in a row.
Mieriela – The Markswoman – Every Saturday I had to get shots for my white cells. Between 9-11am Day Care was open for those of us who needed weekend work. And the only nurse was Mieriela. It didn’t matter what time I came in, she always treated me as if I was the most important person. She always made sure the shot was slow and as painless as possible. She also asked me about my plans. And she would help me work through my Spanish as I told her about my weekend. Mieriela is the person you want as backup when you need a little extra boost.
Monica – The Heart – Monica was in charge of service. During chemo she was the one to take food and drink orders. She was also the person who cleaned Day Care from top to bottom. Monica was ALWAYS in Day Care. Early mornings, holidays, Saturdays Monica was there. And she always greeted me with “Hola mi amor” or “buen dia mi corizon.” And I always got a kiss and a hug and a pat on the cheek. This tiny little woman has one of the biggest hearts. Every chemo she brought Mom coffee with hot water. When I was actually eating during chemo, she kept track of what I liked and didn’t like. Monica is my Uruguayan grandma. I looked forward to seeing her every single time. And my last chemo, we both hugged and cried.
These are the women who have taken care of me for six months. They are the reason I got through all of this. They saved my life far beyond the medicine they gave me. They made my heart stronger. But there is one more nurse who goes above all others…
Sanda -The Mother- When I wasn’t at the British Hospital, I had the best home nurse in the world. My mother picked up her life and moved in. She made my life so much easier. She kept my house spotless. Not a single germ would dare darken our door. She cooked every anti cancer meal. She cleaned every fruit and vegetable with vinegar water. She washed every dish, vacuumed and mopped the floor every day, and made the bed. She made every shopping trip. She did every load of laundry. She got every pill at the pharmacy. She rubbed my head, held me when I cried, let me feel that it was all unfair. She prayed every night and even got me, the boyfriend, and the friends to pray during meals too. She watched endless episodes of The Good Wife. She put up decorations for holidays and strung up get well cards down my hall to remind me to think of the people who love me. She listened to every rant about school and celebrated the good days. And even though she worried about me pushing myself, she kept silent as I went out when I could and waited up until 12 and then 11 and then 10 when I came home tired. She made friends with my porteros and my neighbor and made them treats. She made my boyfriend milanesas and sweets every Wednesday. She made sure that I never got sick…not once. And through it all, she stayed her positive and joyful self. Mom is the person you want when you have cancer. As Nicolas said, “what are we going to do without your mother?!”