I Was Preparing to Be an Oncology Nurse, That is Until My Sister's Cancer Returned

May 17, 2022
Kim Johnson
Kim Johnson

Kim is a nursing student who is hoping to find her place amongst the phenomenal oncology nurses and doctors who cared for her sister. She loves reading, volunteering and enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.

Watching my sister undergo cancer treatment made me want to become a nurse, though after she was re-diagnosed, I’ve had to step away from that career path.

July will forever be the month that changed everything for me. It is crazy that so much time has passed because in so many ways, those days remain so prominently present in my mind.

After hearing that my sister had cancer, my world felt like it was falling apart. What I had no way of knowing at the time was that while our world fell apart in so many ways, it was only through rebuilding that I was able to discover who I was meant to be.

Hearing "it is cancer" is something that shook me to my core. No matter how suspicious I had been that she was sick, no matter how much I thought it was cancer, I was not prepared for the diagnosis that they gave. It felt as if a clock had begun ticking down to the end of my sister's life that July day.

Every choice made felt like it was the most consequential decision I would ever make. Everything we did had this aura of sadness as I wondered if we would ever do that thing again before she died.

So much about cancer is about waiting and hoping that treatments are working or that the next scan will be better than the last. I’m hoping that the treatments are, at the very least, keeping cancer from ravaging her body further than it already has.

I would never have thought that "stable" was a term I would like with cancer, because in the beginning, stability was not enough. I wanted better. But cancer changes so much, and it certainly changed my expectations.

Somewhere in her journey, I realized that I couldn't just be a caregiver and I wanted to be more. No matter how her story ended, I didn't want the cancer chapter to come to an end in my life. That is not to say that I did not want my sister to gain remission, I just knew that I wanted to keep helping those with the disease. I wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to take care of others as I had watched her team take care of her.

I did not know how that would come to be, and in so many ways, I am still not sure exactly how it will unfold. After being in school and earning my associate degree, my sister was re-diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, which led to me stepping away from nursing. This shook me to my core, and I knew that I still had a love and passion for nursing but knowing that my sister was once again facing a terminal diagnosis made me question the path that I was on.

While I have an affinity for pediatrics, and I hope to work with pediatric patients with cancer, nearly a year post-re-diagnosis, I am still uncertain if I will continue in nursing. If cancer has taught me anything, it is that life is unpredictable. I would never have suspected that a six-letter word would change so much in my life, and that with a diagnosis, my story would change forever.


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