twenty years ago we graduated from nursing school together. to say we were young & carefree would be an understatement. from day one of our nursing training i knew we’d be fast friends. tammy was a slender stunner with long blonde hair. from that day and to present she’s known in my little world as barbie.
we worked our tails off during our training and often times over achieved ( well except for chemistry 101). that first year, when clinicals are basically the most challenging patients & medical situations that would easily scare off anyone not 100% sure of their calling, we thrived. we gently loved on the elderly, fed babies, treated deep flesh eating bed sores, gave meds to “inmate”patients as the police officers sat nearby, and took care of those near the end of their battles with cancer. our blissful young lives paradoxical of our calling & how we spent our long days. we formed friendships that would last a lifetime. we laughed driving through downtown atlanta with a sunroof wide open, made late night krystal runs, tanned on the roof and carried the title of bridesmaid.
after graduation barbie went into adult trauma, i went into pediatric oncology. as often times happens, life just rolled on & after a few years we lost touch. until last saturday when i received an email from her—a caringbridge notification. we were in the car & the link wouldn’t open. i told dan–oh my gosh. surely this isn’t what i think it is. i quickly texted one of our other bff’s from nursing school only to find out what i had feared was certainly true. barbie’s son dylan had just been diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
there are two campuses of the children’s hospital, CHOA, in atlanta. tammy’s little fella was at a different campus from the one i spent years working, but as i pulled in the parking deck as a friend and supporter, not as a nurse, i prayed the tears would hold off until i pulled out a little later. i wished that i was his nurse that evening- knowing i would have taken good care of him and his mama. sigh. i asked one of the nurses to point me in the direction of dylan’s room. the halls were quiet.
as i walked down that hallway, i thought for a moment how many times since i finished nursing school has one of my close friends dealt with this nasty illness. the boy i married while i was in school passed away from this beast. my bestie from highschool lost her little boy a few years after gregg died. but there are survival stories as well. one of the patients i cared for ( her mama & daddy went to highschool with me) went on to graduate FIRST in her highschool class.
i glanced up at the CURE sign and at the smiling faces framed along side. and i prayed. i prayed that dylan would beat this. that the cancer would go in & kill the bad cells. all of them.
he has a 14 inch tumor along his femur. he’ll go through 10 weeks of chemo before they can perform surgery. that lands sometime in may. at that point barbie will find out her options. amputation may be one. sigh. they found out dylan is a candidate for femur replacement so that IS awesome. after that re-evaluation, dylan will go through 20 more weeks of intense chemo. well gosh. it’s all intense.
we sat on the sofa side by side. 20 years later. this time we weren’t cramming for an exam or giving report for the evening care of a patient. her little dude was laying in front of us hooked up to a dizzying amount of lines & tubes. his sweet little smile peeking over the covers & saying things like ….”yes ma’am”. we talked about work & insurance & duck dynasty. and dogs. we talked about the sweet therapy dogs that hang out at CHOA. i grabbed the photo below off barbie’s facebook after she told me about zoe. zoe is a golden doodle who visits different departments each day. ( i think i have her name correct). well just before dylan went into surgery zoe came for a visit. she jumped up on the stretcher beside dylan and when her trainer told her it was time to be gentle she laid down beside him & didn’t move for like ten minutes. i think if jesus lived here today, he’d totally have a golden. that’s just my thought.
we hugged before i left. actually a couple times. those long hugs of knowing. i’ve never seen my friend look so beautiful and so brave. strength wrapped up in the love of a mama bear- preparing for battle. i thought as i walked down those halls back to my car, how perhaps all those years of training and caring for others prepared both of us to care for our own….many many years later. i think when we look at each other we see those 20 somethings, young & brave, ready to take on any clinical situation. we’re really not so different now. we’re not.
dylan’s home now & dealing with all the side effects of chemo. they’re on the battlefield my friends. would you please pray for him? before i left that evening, i asked dylan if i had his permission to share his story with my friends. he said yes ma’am. please do. please tell everyone you know to pray for me.
barbie wrote this in her journal the other day….”I am normally a neat housekeeper, very organized and generally on top of things. Well all of the above has gone out the window. We have feeding bags, feeding machine, Farrell bags, syringes, gauze pads, regular pads, puke bags, cases of enteral feedings, etc. It takes a lot to wrap your mind around, but I find that even though we have told Dylan everything about his cancer he is always asking more questions. Which leads me to believe he is finally accepted this and we are gonna beat it. I was lying in bed last night next to him and I started to cry because he was soooo sick. He said mom don’t cry everything is going to be alright!! Just broke my heart.”
my barbie, she’s raised a brave warrior. no surprise to me at all. no surprise at all.
dylan’s story can be followed along here.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.