I was very ill my sophomore year in high school. At one point, the doctors discovered what they thought was a pituitary tumor in my brain. I remember the pediatric oncologist coming in to sit on the side of my bed with my mother looking on. I heard him talking. But I didn’t really HEAR them, if you know what I mean. I heard brain surgery and that they would surgically be entering my mouth under my nose. Suddenly I became focused on my nose. I then heard the words radiation therapy. At that point I had heard enough from the doctor. So being a typical 15 year old, I left the room to go hang out with my friend in the hallway . I hung out with my friend who sat there with me in the empty pediatric ward hallway that night. That friend was there to just BE.
Glennon’s mother, “Tisha,” was my high school counselor. The day before my surgery, there was a knock at my front door. There stood Mrs. Doyle, Glennon, and Mandy. I can remember looking into each of their eyes. I saw looks of compassion, concern, and fear. Here in front of them was a high school girl getting ready to face brain surgery and the possibility of brain cancer. They knew that if something went wrong in surgery my sight could be affected forever. There in their hands was an offering, a small basket holding a porcelain glitter rainbow unicorn. They were there for me. THEY were here just to BE. Thankfully when they performed my surgery, it was not a tumor, but an abscess. Therefore, no cancer.
You know what, Glennon, outside of my parents, your mother taught me the meaning of just how to BE for people. She would give guidance when needed or asked. But most importantly she listened without judging. My parents taught me to BE, your mother taught me to BE, my faith taught me to BE. And learning how to just beprepared me for my life in nursing.
I am now a Family Nurse Practitioner in the Emergency Room. I initially started out in the Adult ICU on the night shift as a registered nurse. The night shift was quiet. During the night shift my coworkers and I were on our own. During the night shift I learned to BE for my patients. I remember one family who couldn’t bear to sit by their mother, because they felt it was time to let go. So each night, I sat there with her. Do for others as you would want them to do for you. I just didn’t want her to be alone. I performed my bed side nursing, gave her bed baths, and I talked with her. There was never a physical response except for fluctuations in her heart rate. But I wanted to just BE for her. I held her hand as she left this world.
From there, I moved on to Pediatric Oncology both as a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner. That, Monkees, is where my heart has always been. These amazing children go on living and BEING despite living their cancer. These children and families have been my teachers. They have taught me to BE in life, no matter what life presents. During that time in my career, I primarily worked night shift. Again, the night shift was quiet. During night shift I was on my own with these families in the stillness. During the night shift, I had some of the most touching experiences with these families. Sometimes the teenagers who didn’t want to talk openly about their fears of cancer to their parents for fear of causing them stress, would talk to me, instead. I would just BE. Sometimes the mother or father would come out to talk to me after their child would fall asleep. They would talk to me, the nurse, about their fears because they didn’t want their child to see their tears. I would just BE.
The Emergency Room is definitely a different pace, a different world. Sometimes, outside of needing an antibiotic, stitches, or cast the patient or family just need to be heard. So I stop and BE there, too. Recently, a patient came in with a dislocated ankle. I brought my supervising physician in to take a look. He looked me and said, “Let‘s get her ready for sedation, you manage her airway, I’ll pop her ankle in place.” The amazing ER team went to work like busy bees in a rhythm. I was at the patient’s head. She was in pain, anxious, tearful, fearful of pain. At that moment I stopped. I brushed the hair away from her face, wiped her tears away, and she talked while I listened. She looked at me said, “Please don’t leave me. Please be by my side during this.” So there I was, to just BE. As she slipped into sedation and her eyes closed, I went back to my job of managing her airway and providing her with oxygen by bag. Before she knew it, her ankle was back in place and there she slept peacefully. No pain, no tears, just peace.
But, you want to know the kicker, Monkees? Ask me to BE for a patient and I will do it with no problem. But ask me to BE for family and friends… now that is easier said than done. For my husband, I am so focused on BEING his wife, his confidante, his friend, that sometimes I forget to just BE there for him. For my children, I want so badly to BE their protector and encourager that I forget to let them just BE a kid. For my friends, I want so badly to be their problem solver and to bring them happiness and peace that sometimes I forget that they don’t want me to solve their problems, but just to BE.
As I open up Momastery each morning, I continue to learn how to just BE. Glennon, you are teaching me, teaching us, teaching the Monkees to BE. That is a gift that will keep on giving and giving. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for me on that day before my surgery. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for me, for us, now.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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