Before I became a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), I worked in healthcare. I have my Master’s in Healthcare Administration, my Bachelor’s in Healthcare Management, and my wheelhouse is patient care in Radiology. I am certified in Radiography, Computed Tomography (CT), and Nuclear Medicine. I am categorized as a Dual Certified Technologist and spent the last 6 years of my pre-kid career working for a research school/hospital in Rochester, NY in the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Center. Seventy to eighty percent of our patient load was Oncology patients. I was the person who injected radioactive sugar (Fluorodeoxyglucose – FDG) into patients and scanned them to see how their cancer was responding to treatments – if there was more/less spread of the disease, or maintenance scans for those in remission. We conducted a few other studies with different radioactive injections, but we mostly saw cancer patients. Not to toot my own horn (TOOT TOOT), but I was pretty skilled at starting IVs. It’s always a huge compliment when 1) a patient tells you they didn’t even feel the needle go in and 2) when a nurse comes to find YOU, a technologist, to start the IV. Cancer patients are generally very hard sticks because their bodies have been through so much and their veins take a beating. Pediatric patients are even harder. And feet….those are almost always a last resort but actually my favorite because I love a good challenge.
I need to back-track a little and give some credit to a few stellar folks who taught me my mad sticking (starting IVs) skills. When I was a nuclear medicine student, I was in clinicals with many technologists but specifically with a husband and wife team, Matt and Nikki. They were both very good at starting IVs, but Matt was THE MAN. If no one could get a stick, Matt could. Those two believed in me. I’ll never forget one time when Nikki needed an IV for a scan that was being performed on her, she asked for ME – not her husband, but ME!! – to start her IV. And this wasn’t your basic 22-gauge IV, it was an 18-gauge needle bore. That’s kind of a HUGE needle. You basically get one shot with those. It’s so easy to blow the vein if you don’t hit it right. Matt and Nikki took me aside and gave me a pep talk. Most importantly, they both told me how much they believed in me and knew I could do it. Well, I did it. At the time, I didn’t realize how much their belief in me would carry on in my career. The major takeaway for me: You never know how much your words can affect someone, so when given the opportunity always be a cheerleader. Never hesitate.
As for my patients, I could write pages and pages about the things I learned from them. We saw many of them so frequently that they became like extensions of family. The one humbling constant with nearly all of them was how happy they were. They loved life and were filled with optimism. Yes, they grieved, as did we, when their scans came back with not great news, but gosh they were so resilient. It was something I needed to know more about. So, I asked. Because you can do that when you’re about as close to being family as you can be without actually being family. I’ll never forget what one of my patients said. He told me, “Being sad is such a waste of time.” I think being sad is important because feeling all emotions is important but staying stuck in that sad place robs you of the life you have left to live. Other patients would remind me that life, no matter how old you are or what disease you are facing, is very short. You could receive a cancer diagnosis and still outlive a totally healthy person who walks across the street and is struck by a car. My patients found joy in their lives when many people would be crippled. Another patient made me promise her that I would always look for the happy even in the hardest of situations. I hope I am making them all proud. I’ve been away from that job now for almost as long as I was there, and I have no idea who is still fighting the good fight or who is now resting in peace. For the ones who have come to pass, I hope they are looking down on me and smiling, because their words are with me always. Even more so now as we are going through this deployment. Every single day I remind myself and my kids to find the happy.