When the Nurse Becomes the Patient: Carilou’s Breast Cancer Experience

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Carilou is a breast cancer survivor in her late 70s and lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She’s a retired nurse and volunteer at the AdventHealth Infusion Center and was part of the Bell Choir that performed Silent Night for recording. The performance is being shown during television breaks this Christmas.

As a nurse, I remember the first thing we did for one of our patients was to shoo away the chickens.

Before he’d let me administer care, I had to get on my hands and knees and yell, “shoo, shoo!” to chase them out from underneath his bed. Doing stuff like that is just one of the demands of a patient hallucinating from alcohol withdrawal.

Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 76 as I lived near the North Carolina mountains, I also had my own demands that needed to be met before my care could begin. I had a lot of questions, I was very demanding with my questions, and my doctors and nurses at AdventHealth Hendersonville patiently and lovingly answered every one of them.

It was in gratitude to them, their patience and their clinical care, that I joined 17 other cancer survivors from AdventHealth hospitals across the country last Christmas to perform Silent Night in a Bell Choir. This Christmas, I reflect on how my hallowed journey through a life-threatening disease has brought me in touch with the amazing love of other survivors and AdventHealth caregivers—and how it’s changed me.

The AdventHealth Bell Choir

When I was declared cancer free a little more than a year ago, I started volunteering at the AdventHealth Infusion Center for cancer patients near my home. You just don’t get this blessed in life and not give something back.

And even then, I thought I was giving something to someone, but those people have given so much to me. Some of them really find God when they’re just slammed up against the wall like that, because I have never met such beautiful people in my life. There’s a survivor I met in Bell Choir who’s beaten back cancer three times and he can’t even legally drive a car yet.

Because just to hear the word “cancer” is enough to make you sit down and think about your life and what direction you want it to go. When it happened to me, it made me pray a lot stronger and it made me ask for a lot of forgiveness that I had completely forgotten about. It’s a sacred experience.
During that time, there was a lot of worry and uncertainty that my caregivers helped me through. And having been a nurse for 45 years, I approached my clinical care with a watchful eye. But AdventHealth blew my mind.

Each and every person is very loving, very caring and very focused on their patient care. The love I have for these people, there is no bottom.

When I wanted a test that was only done in California, but my insurance didn’t cover it, my nurse navigator called my insurance company. Not only did they cover the cost, that test ruled out further unnecessary treatment—all because of what she did.

That’s the kind of care I learned as a nurse. In the 60s, it was drilled into our heads at nursing school that you don’t take breaks. When you have nothing to do you sit and talk to the patient, because their outlook is as important as anything we’re going to do for them.

It’s a small but essential lesson in giving any kind of care.

Because that’s why AdventHealth so patiently and lovingly answered all my questions. And that’s why I shooed away those chickens.

To learn more about AdventHealth's whole-person approach to cancer care, visit our website.

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