Dear Kerry: a letter to my Captain

Today marks my last blood test at Taussig Cancer Institute. For the occasion, I am proudly wearing my #10 t-shirt. Pending good results (which I’m anticipating), I’m officially tossed back to being a full-time neurological institute patient. In the transplant world, this is a success, a celebration, less appointments.

Under normal circumstances, hearing you have no future appointments at the cancer center solicits joy, but to me, it feels bittersweet. One year ago, I hadn’t even heard of HSCT. I didn’t know it stood for bone marrow transplant in fancy medical speak. I knew the caregivers at Cleveland Clinic’s cancer center professionally as they were my colleagues and my friends; I had never been a patient. Then my neurologist said “bone marrow transplant.”

I had an oncology consult and two days of testing where I met Kerry, my transplant nurse. I asked everyone I met with, “who is my captain?” In this overwhelming, multi-disciplinary care treatment structure, who was MY person?

My person was Kerry and she changed my life. Words are my currency, so below is an open letter to my transplant nurse, my captain, my friend. It is my feeble attempt to express the enormity of my gratitude to this extraordinary woman.


Dear Kerry,

I’m so grateful for you. We’ve exchanged so many words, so many tears, so many lab results. It’s hard to imagine any medical appointment in my future without you. Fancy a switch to neurology?

I want to do this letter, our friendship, your professionalism – justice. I want to shout from the rooftops your many virtues and ask everyone at Cleveland Clinic if they have had the privilege of meeting you. I want to tell all patients undergoing HSCT that they need you by their side. That you will make their world better.

From the first time we spoke, the connection was apparent. You never shied away from my questions (and there were many!). You listened to my real-time feedback and you validated my frustrations. You guided me through a complex medical process, coordinated appointments and referrals, facilitated insurance submissions, navigated through denial and then got us to approval. You came to every appointment, physician consult and supportive care treatment. You were one of the first people I told I was getting a divorce. You visited me during my inpatient hospital stay. You answered my calls and frantic emails when I was scared, confused, in pain and overwhelmed. You celebrated my successes. You reminded me to keep going even when I didn’t think I could. You held a mirror up, showcasing the strength I had within, urging me on. You told me, and reminded me, that healing should be gauged week over week, not day by day.

Thank you for explaining cancer lab results, blood work and metrics of success in the bone marrow transplant space. You treated me with respect and helped me understand what was happening to my body. You were always clear about what we know, and more importantly, about all the things we don’t yet know.

Thank you for being curious about multiple sclerosis, neurological side effects and the coordination of care across multiple institutes at Cleveland Clinic. Future MS patients will no doubt benefit from your unwavering curiosity and quest for learning and improvement.

Thank you for learning my friends and family members and recognizing their awesomeness too.

Thank you for continually showing up for me in every way a human can for another.

I will never understand how someone has the strength to do what you do but I am forever grateful you chose this profession, this path, this specialty. To meet people in the depths of despair and carry them through one of the most challenging experiences a human body can endure; you did this for me, you do this every day. I know, without a doubt, I could not have persevered these last ten months without you. You took an unbearable situation and joined me in the fight, by my side.

I’ve learned through this process how very special nurses are; angels here on earth. You’ve changed my health and in doing so, altered the trajectory of my life. I’m grateful for everything you are and everything you give to your patients and gave to me.

With each new milestone reached, I will think of you.

With love,

Carolyn


2 responses to “Dear Kerry: a letter to my Captain”

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