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May 18, 2014 | Farmers’ Market, Saratoga Springs, NY
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Ms. Lizzy Smalley
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My first patient with a brain tumor....

~ I could hear the muffled sobs before I'd reached her room. The crowd of white coats whispering in hushed tones, their heads bowed crowded around one chart, verified what my gut already knew. " She knows now," I thought. I'd seen the pathology report this morning, I'd seen the words printed on the screen, and the knot in my stomach had grown.  I was staring at a death sentence on the computer screen, and I felt the burning in my eyes as tears threatened to spill. You don't have time for tears I reminded myself, as I prepared for my first med pass.  When would the doctors come to share the news I wondered, and as I rounded the corner the team of doctors, their grim faces told me the time had come. My patient has just been diagnosed with a high grade glioblastoma, a brain tumor.  I entered her room and sat quietly next to her, she was alone. Her husband was getting their 2 small children on the bus and when she looked at me I saw such sorrow in her eyes, that my tears started to fall freely. All I could do is reach for her hand, " I'm so angry," she was finally able to choke out between sobs, " this is not fair, it's just not how it's supposed to be." I had no words then. I could find nothing fitting to offer comfort, encouragement, or hope.  I searched the room for tissues, for her and also myself when I spied a rosary on her bedside table. I said a silent prayer to God that he would give me strength, and I grabbed the rosary and began to pray it aloud, silently hoping I wouldn't jumble the words as I've always struggled with the order of the prayers. Slowly, bead by bead, her sobbing slowed, eventually calming to a sniffle and eventually she joined very quietly whispering the prayers with me. 

  "Thank you" she said when I'd finished, and placed the beads next to her on the bed. I smiled and told her honestly that I was sorry and that I had no words to offer her comfort, because she was right; it did suck, and it wasn't fair. In own mind I could not reconcile my emotions; anger, injustice, loss. I couldn't imagine my patients thought process. How is she not falling apart I wondered. I sat with her and we talked of the future, of her young children, she shared her hopes for them and her fears for them, and then an amazing thing happened her husband arrived, and her words to him we're, " honey let's make today count" I excused myself then but throughout the day I was a spectator of her amazing strength. that day as she comforted her husband with the news of prognosis, and then I heard their laughter throughout the day as they relived happy memories... their time together now with a short limit of time, they did exactly what she said. Over the next few months she made it count. 

" Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."

~ Mother Theresa

    I shared this story to show just how strong my patients are, and how every patient leaves an imprint on my heart.   I have worked in neuroscience as a nurse for almost 5 years. For those in the medical field, you know how special this unique area is. It takes a very special group of people to manage the care of the neuroscience patient population. The individuals I work with are some of the most amazing  people who invest an ongoing devotion to serving, caring, and genuinely loving their patients.  

    We laugh, we cry, we sweat, we ache, and some days you just don't know if you can do all that is asked of you.   To put it bluntly, our job is hard. However no matter how stressful a day in a nurses life may be it could never compare to the life of our patients. One of our largest patient populations is those individuals diagnosed with brain tumors.  The struggles and challenges are unimaginable and I've witnessed their amazing strength every day. I pray for a day when no patient will get the news " you have brain cancer." Please help me make this a reality. 


I am participating to improve the lives of all those affected by brain tumors. I am passionate about this cause and that is why I am walking!

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I have joined this movement to bring the issue of brain tumors to the forefront. Progress is being made, but there is so much more to be done. Please support my efforts!

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