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!  

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.