An open letter to the nurses at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center

Dear Nursing Staff,

You know my son. He is four and already a bit of a Casanova. Today he paid you a visit to be treated for his bleeding disorder and he brought you daffodils that he picked himself. He limped around the children’s floor handing out flowers and sass. More than a few of you blushed and giggled. It was endearing.

He strutted through the halls in his socks. He told knock-knock jokes and played with toys in the playroom area. He saddled up to his favorite comfy chair in the snack room and pleaded for the chocolate milk that you keep in the patient refrigerator. He knows this place. He feels safe here. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that my son is nearly as comfortable in the care of your ward as he is at home.

I won’t lie; it hurts me immensely that his second home is a hospital setting.

Part of his condition requires him to sit still while an IV is inserted into his vein so that he can be given a dose of medicine. This medicine helps his body to create blood clots. These blood clots ensure that his body heals from relatively minor wounds that I wouldn’t even notice on my own body. The thing is he is terrified of the process to get that IV in. His screams and gasping cries are well known on your floor.

But today, because of your compassion and untiring work with him, he had a breakthrough. He sat still. He did not scream. No one held him down. There were not hours lost and veins blown. There were no worried glances between you and me. The process to get medicine directly into my son’s veins went as smoothly as the brochures in the waiting room promise.

I want to thank you. I think everyone should thank you. I think you all deserve medals and trophies for the heart breaking work you do. Every. Single. Day.

You don’t know that as a mother it fills me with dread to have to see you. And you don’t know that when I finally arrive with the weight of fear it is your smiling faces that ease my anxiety. That you bother to chat with me about anything not related to this relationship buoys my strength to not break into tears when my son begins to sweat the fact that he has to be treated again.

I want to tell you that in a quiet but profound way you all feel like my sisters. I want to tell you that I get tired from dealing with this. And that I cannot fathom how you watch kids with bleeding disorders and every shade of cancer walk, limp, and wheel through your doors without falling apart at the seams.

But mostly, I want to tell you that if you ever think for even a moment that the work you do goes unnoticed or unthanked it does not. In many ways – both literal and figurative – you’ve saved my son’s life and my family’s sanity. You mean something pretty big to me. You give me hope and humor when I desperately need it. I think of you often when my son has achievements of normalcy like jumping on the bed in a super hero cape without the consequence of swollen knees, or chasing kids at the park without twisted ankles. I try to remember these things so I can tell you all about it the next time I see you.

Because there will always be a next time.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.