"I Thought You Were a Goner"

"I Thought You Were a Goner"

So has said my longtime oncology nurse, Ron, who has tended to me since June, 2009. Originally, I had been assigned to a different oncology nurse, Holly, with whom I developed an immediate rapport. She cared for me from the beginning, early March 2009, when I began my every-three-week chemotherapy infusion through June, when she transferred from the Infusion Center to a different unit (oncology does take a toll). Initially, after Holly’s departure, Jane, another nurse in the unit, took me on as a patient. However, and this is where the details get sketchy, within a subsequent infusion or two, I was told one day upon my arrival at the Infusion Center, that Ron, still another oncology nurse, who I had certainly seen there previously but with whom I had minimal interaction, would be taking over for Jane – who was not transferring out – and henceforth would be my new oncology nurse. Apparently, I had been traded. For another patient? For future considerations? For a lunch-to-be-paid later? To this day, nearly five years later, I’ve never been able to uncover the truth. I got along fine with Jane; I’m a very low-maintenance patient/ person; I don’t think I did anything to precipitate such a decision. Nevertheless, a deal (my word) had been struck.

To the extent to which assigning nurses to oncology/chemotherapy patients is not random, given the ongoing and serious nature of the types of treatment, Ron’s assignment – to me – was genius. We are alike in so many ways. We’re the same age and have the same wise guy-type personality. We both use humor at every opportunity and love Yiddish and shtick as well; also we’re both Jewish. In addition, we’re both from the Northeast and love sports. He’s interested in me and I’m interested in him. I know about his family. He knows about mine. Our relationship has evolved from nurse-patient to close friend. I trust Ron with my life.

That fact was never clearer to me than this past August 2nd, a scheduled infusion day for me, when I arrived at the Infusion Center for my usual chemotherapy. Ron noticed how ashen gray I was and after talking to me, further realized how much difficulty I was having breathing. Initially, he walked me around the unit while monitoring my oxygen levels; they were not merely low, they were no-chemotherapy-for-me-that-day really low. Immediately, Ron went to "Plan B:" assessment by a doctor in the Emergency Care Department. I needed medical help, that day. Ron then spent the next few hours coordinating care and managing the necessary steps to finding me a hospital bed. Later that day, I was "ambulanced" to Holy Cross Hospital where I was admitted. Two days later, I had 4.5 liters of fluid drained from my left lung which subsequently collapsed. I then spent the next five days recovering in S.I.C.U. In total, I was hospitalized for eight days before being released the following Friday. If not for Ron’s hands-on and professional approach to my deteriorating condition, it’s likely, as he’s fond of joking, that I was a "goner."

But I’m not a "goner." I’m a "still here-er." In fact, at my last infusion, Ron told me that as of my five-year anniversary in late Febru-ary, I’m now his longest-surviving cancer patient. And I’m still alive for many reasons, one of which is most definitely due to the depth of the relationship I have with my oncology nurse, Ron "Choo, Choo" Chubin (he’s also a train guy). I wouldn’t be here without him because, as he’s also fond of saying, he’s where I need him to be. Thank God!