All Aboard!

One week in and ready to go!  

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I will be working on B ward, which is the Plastics unit. Unlike what you'd think plastic surgery is all about in the States, these procedures are about function, not aesthetics. For example, a severe burn can cause contractures to the point that a person cannot use a limb or even walk. The surgeon uses a skin graft to release that tight skin and restore function to the affected limb, but only after weeks and possibly months of healing and rehab. This is just one example of a plastics case, more to come. 

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This last week has been all about prepping the wards for the patients and preparing us new nurses for their care.  

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We will have Day Workers, who are local translators, working alongside us.  

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The nurses station is quite small...well the whole unit is small. It's going to get VERY crowded! 

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I am in a 4-berth cabin with only 2 other cabin mates. Lucy and I are both working on B ward and Theresa (far right) is a nurse in the operating room (OR).  

Lucy is from Sydney, Australia and Theresa is from California.  

Lucy is from Sydney, Australia and Theresa is from California.  

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Deck 7 provides from great views of the port and the sunsets. The weather has been quite cool when it's cloudy and being so close to the water, there seems to always be a good breeze.  

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I've ventured out in Cotonou a few times. I went to an arts and craft market with these girls. The shopping lasted 10 minutes and then we sat in a bar (drinking what we'd ordered as Coke and came out looking like Fanta) to recover from all the vendor-hassling.  

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Another day trip led to this pool. The pool guy let us in for free when he found out we were nurses on the Mercy Ship.  

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Lucy :)  

Lucy :)  

Truthfully, the last week has included more downtime than I bargained for. I'm so thankful to have Lucy to sit around and laugh with. She's teaching me Australian. Haha! 

Surgeries have officially started this week and that means I'll have stories to tell very soon!  

Iceland: Reykjavik and more

I gave myself two full days to explore Reykjavik. I heard from other travelers along the way that there wasn't much to do in the city unless you've planned tours and boat rides. I found this to be true. 

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This church is quite tall and picturesque. I confess that I have no idea what it's history is, but I did discover that Iceland is a "Protestant" country, although it has a very high number of of athiests (I'm told). 

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Reykjavik Roasters

Reykjavik Roasters

I slipped into 2 different coffee ships for expensive java and book reads. 

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Harpa is the Iceland Hall of Music and it is quite the structure. Visitors can come and explore the inside and get free wifi! It sits on the harbor and was a lovely spot to read. 

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This bicycle functions as a gate!

This bicycle functions as a gate!

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One day in Reykjavik was plenty for me. I got bored by the end of the day. If I wanted to spend the money, I would've gone on a whale watching boat tour. Instead I decided to hike to THE HOT RIVER. I found about this place from Instagram. It was a 40-minute drive from Reykjavik and then a 50-minute hike. 

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But a beautiful hike...oh look another waterfall!

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There were so many people there that I was afraid it would ruin the vibe, but the river is sectioned off with rocks and it was easy to find space away from others. Once in the river, it was almost too hot to sit in for very long. 

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On my way back to Reykjavik, I sat in this cute little cafe for a couple hours. 

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The final Iceland activity was visiting Blue Lagoon. I was told repeatedly that it is a tourist trap and the water and mud is artificial, but...when in Iceland, you go to the Blue Lagoon. 

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The atmosphere was really fun and very low key. I got wifi in the lagoon and swam around with my phone so an older couple asked if I'd take a photo of them. I also met another solo traveler from Australia who had been at the lagoon all day. Whoa. 

Not a great photo. My phone case got a little foggy. 

Not a great photo. My phone case got a little foggy. 

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A very relaxing time and worth the tourist trap just this once. 

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I stayed at a hostel near the airport and had the great fortune of meeting all these ladies in this picture! All of us were solo traveling and happened to stay in the same hostel! We banded together and drove out to attempt to see the Northern lights, but did not have good luck. By the time I was falling asleep, I felt like I'd been adopted into a little family of nomads. 

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Goodbye, Iceland! You were worth it. 

Iceland: The Western Fjords

I spent 2 days driving around the peninsula in northwest Iceland. So much driving. So much beauty to look at.  

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I stayed the night at a hostel in Holmavik. It was a cute, but cold, little town. It was only my second night in Iceland, but I started to get a little lonely after all the driving.  

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I met two older guys from Barcelona who were really sweet to me at the hostel and chatted over dinner. They were the only other guests who seemed to speak English.  

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Little Mitty. :)  

Little Mitty. :)  

I never got a clear idea of what this statue is about.  

I never got a clear idea of what this statue is about.  

Gravel roads were not easy on Little Mitty.  

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Waterfalls are EVERYWHERE. Even in the middle of nowhere (where is that water even coming from?!).  

The horse farm in Bildadalur

The horse farm in Bildadalur

My next night was, hands-down, my favorite stay of the week. I booked an Airbnb on a horse farm in a fjord. The hosts were so welcoming and I felt instantly at home (good medicine for loneliness). Another older couple from Quebec were also staying there that night and equally as warm and friendly! 

View from my room.  

View from my room.  

The horse farm had its own geothermic swimming pool...but it was a little cold.  

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My host (he had a very Icelandic name that I can't spell) invited me fishing so I accompanied him. He went to a little waterfall with a pool where trout hang it.  

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He didn't catch anything except a tiny trout that he threw back.  

This little river was on his property.  

This little river was on his property.  

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I hugged him when I left and he gave me an awkward grampa hug back. :) 

I heard multiple people call these "hot pots" 

I heard multiple people call these "hot pots" 

My host suggested I stop at this little gem on my way back to the city!  

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Dynjandi waterfall was also on my way back, just 6 miles from the horse farm!  

Seriously an epic waterfall. It is so tall and in the middle of rocks. No other nature for miles!  

Seriously an epic waterfall. It is so tall and in the middle of rocks. No other nature for miles!  

Changing hut or leftover set piece from LOTR? 

Changing hut or leftover set piece from LOTR? 

On my way to the peninsula, I picked up a hitchhiker from Argentina who was working at a hotel for 2 weeks while she was traveling Iceland. I stopped back at her place, picked her up and went to another hot spring.  

Not naked. Water is really mossy.  

Not naked. Water is really mossy.  

This was my last stop before arriving in Reykjavik. I loved my time in the fjords. I definitely felt that God was blessibg me with plenty of company when I was getting lonely. That seems to be a perk of solo travel--I was very open to meeting and chatting with people, especially other people who were alone. It's a great way to bond!  

The top 2 right stars are my 2 nights of stay in the Fjords. It was a 5 hours drive from he middle star back to Reykjavik.  

The top 2 right stars are my 2 nights of stay in the Fjords. It was a 5 hours drive from he middle star back to Reykjavik.  

Iceland: The Golden Circle

Iceland is beyond beautiful. I started my trip by renting a car and driving the Golden Circle. Let me show you!

Part of the water above Skogafoss.  

Part of the water above Skogafoss.  

I was able to see a lot of those stars on my first and second day.  

I was able to see a lot of those stars on my first and second day.  

I wanted to make sure I saw everything in Justin Beiber's music video.  

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The black sand beaches.  

The black sand beaches.  

I made hot tea every day and brought it with me. Nice and warm.  

I made hot tea every day and brought it with me. Nice and warm.  

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Skogafoss was my most anticipated waterfall to see. It did NOT disappoint.  

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I hiked the stairs to the top and hopped over a ladder and discovered more and more trail. Another 10 minutes hike up was another epic falls!  

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I stayed here for awhile as most people did not venture this far.  

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I ended my night by trying to find the Seljavellir pool, almost missing it because it is down a dirt road. The water was pretty warm and I had a lovely conversation with a fellow solo traveler while hovering around the hottest spot. 

The view of a river from my Airbnb in Selfoss.  

The view of a river from my Airbnb in Selfoss.  

On my way again the next morning to the secret lagoon. I am told by locals that it is better than Blue Lagoon and it is indeed much cheaper. 

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Secret Lagoon had fantastic facilities, clean bathroom and nice showers.   

Fun fact: every person is required to shower naked before putting swim suit on and getting into the pool.

Fun fact: every person is required to shower naked before putting swim suit on and getting into the pool.

Geysir that heats the pool.  

Geysir that heats the pool.  

Next stop: Gulfoss.  

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I stayed at this one for awhile also. How could you not?!

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Next, I really wanted to find Bruarfoss. I'd seen pictures of it and was determined to figure out where it was. I didn't realize that it wasn't a "main attraction" like Skogafoss and Gulfoss. It was down a dirt road, then a 15 minute hike. Only 2 other people were there!  

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It's not very big, but I couldn't look away from the blue water! 

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This was my last stop on the Golden Circle. There was so much more to see but I underestimated how much driving was involved to get to my next stop for the night. The car I rented was a manual, sans cruise control PLUS not all the roads were paved!  

Next up: the Western Fjords! 

 

How to be a cancer nurse.

As an oncology nurse, I get asked all the time, "I don't know how you do it." 

I'm not really sure either. I stumbled onto oncology by accident, not an intentional career move, and somehow I've been "here" on and off for 5 years, inpatient and outpatient, solid tumors and blood cancers, across state lines and international.

I've figured out that the strongest tie that holds me to oncology is RELATIONSHIP.

The essence of cancer treatment is repetition. Patients come in to the hospital day in and out to get labs checked, correct levels, get fluids, get blood, infuse chemo, treat side effects, manage reactions, be educated, receive all manner of pokes and prods, etc. The list goes on and our dear patients sit and wait with us day after day. All the repetition cultivates relationship between nurse and patient that I haven't experienced in my personal life, a bond formed by illness and pain that remains indescribable. It is really hard to watch people in pain, it's even harder to watch people die. For this, I have no answer, no secret to make this easier or more bearable. Sitting with a patient, watching tears flow, anger ripen, prognosis and expectations change is HARD and takes a lot of emotional bravery just to sit and hold a hand or knee, or even a heart, and not run away.  

Being a cancer nurse is tough, but it's included some of the most meaningful moments I've been blessed to experience.