My name is Mary and I am 33 years old. I am a two time Malignant Melanoma Cancer Survivor and I want nothing more than to have the chance to go to nursing school and pursue my dream of becoming an Oncology Nurse.
Here is my Story:
My first experience with cancer was early on in my life (I was eleven years old) when my father was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma of the lungs. I spent a lot of my time at the hospital with him and my mom while he underwent many treatments. He was even one of the first people in the test group for Interferon Chemotherapy, which was the same Chemo they used on me. Ultimately my father came home on hospice and I spent much of my time helping my mom and sister care for my father in his final days of his life. Even though my father ultimately lost his battle with melanoma (which he acquired directly in the lungs from agent orange in Vietnam), he was given a lot longer and more time with his family thanks to the cutting edge treatment and care he received at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA.
My personal battle with the same cancer my father had began in 2009 when I was just 29 years old. I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma (the worst kind of skin cancer) when a mole, that I had since I was a child began to change. Apparently the cancer was so advanced in such a short amount of time that I was immediately referred to Fox Chase Cancer Center and was undergoing complete cancer removal and reconstructive surgery of my right arm within 3 days of my initial diagnosis. I spent the next year undergoing Interferon Chemotherapy in which I suffered severe flu like symptoms of extremely high fevers and body aches that made it very hard for me to even walk.
After that year was over I returned to my life and ended up meeting my wonderful husband, getting married, and giving birth to my amazing son (which was a miracle because it was so soon after the Chemo ended and they weren’t sure if it would affect my ability to have children).
Soon after my life was getting back to normal my mother, who was there for me during my entire battle with cancer, became very ill and I spent the next 8 months running to and from the hospital to take care of her and run the household. Eventually she too came home on hospice due to chronic kidney failure and I became her sole caregiver while she was on hospice and I did everything she needed in her final days. It was at this time I realized my life calling was to be a nurse because I really enjoyed being with her and making her comfortable in her final days the way she had always done for me especially during my battle with cancer.
My second Battle
After dealing with the loss of my mother and selling my childhood home and three years after my first battle, I was diagnosed with a metastasized tumor on the central lobe of my right lung during a routine checkup and CT scan. This time the news was a lot harder to deal with as I had my husband and my one year old son to break the news to and I had no family around to help out as my only immediate family left, my sister, had moved over 15 hours away.
I underwent surgery to remove the entire central lobe of my right lung after following up the diagnosis with a bunch of testing. Thanks to some great friends, my husband and son had the support they needed during my recovery. I spent another year undergoing a different kind of Chemotherapy, which thankfully didn’t make me nearly as sick as the first time and I was able to return to work after about 2 months post surgery recovery to build up my lung capacity again.
I have been through a lot in my life; losing both my parents and two battles with cancer but through it all I have come out stronger on the other side and want nothing more than to become an oncology nurse in order to give patients who are battling cancer the same amazing treatment and care that my father and I received during our separate battles with Melanoma. Currently all my tests and routine checkups have come back clear and I am doing well.
In all that I have been through, I have come to realize that caring for other s is my true calling. Both my parents were Registered Nurses and honestly I never thought that was what I wanted to be but I have found that I love taking care of others and having been a person on both sides of fence as both patient and caregiver I have found that I have a better understanding of what the patient is feeling and it allows me to give better care to the patients that I currently work with as a Certified Nurse Assistant at a Hospital.
I want to continue onto Nursing School because I want to be able to have the knowledge to help make people better both emotionally and physically. I learned a lot as a patient and I use that in my everyday interactions with patients and I feel that I can relate to them. Sometimes I share my story with them and I see the sudden hope in their eyes and they have a sense that, “if she made it out on the other side then so can I.” I feel that I have the ability to show them that not all diagnoses have to end badly especially with cancer. I firmly believe that with great care and a fighting spirit you can come back from cancer and not let it win. That is why I want to be an Oncology nurse I want to help people get better and also be their cheerleader and mascot to show them that even at this dark time there is hope and to put the fire in their fight. I’ve walked in their shoes and I am still here so I am asking for help to fund my education so that I will be able to use all my knowledge as both a patient and caregiver to give people fighting with cancer the treatments they so desperately need as well as a whole lot of understanding as to what they are going through. Who better to do that than someone who has walked more than a mile in their shoes?
Thank you for taking time to read my story and a huge thank you in advance for your generosity in helping me fund my nursing education.