We men are funny, especially the ones over 50. It seems we were raised to be strong and tough, no matter what. Whatever you do, don’t let them see you sweat.
We generally pull that off pretty well, but when the nice doctor across the desk from you says “the biopsy was malignant. We can give you a good chance of survival, but it’s going to be an awful few months of treatment.” The visions of how bad it can be start to grow, even in the minds of tough guys.
So, you summon your courage and take those steps into the chemo ward, filled with trepidation, and understanding very little.
“Hi! My name is Diane, and I’ll be your nurse. Can I show you around?” There’s something about her; something in her eyes. Something in the way she takes your hand makes you feel at home; something that tells you she understands how very foreign, how very frightening all of this is. By the time that the first day is over, it’s all not quite so scary. She walks you to the door, and gives you a big hug and a bigger smile. “See you tomorrow okay?” And you find yourself looking forward to that, as she’s made you feel safe, and cared for.
Those days go on for months. You have great visits with Diane. She can explain how everything works, and why you might be feeling the way you do. If she senses something’s not quite right, she’s careful to find out why and get the help you might need. You get very used to the idea that when Diane is working with you, that is all she is doing. You have her complete attention, as that’s just who she is. You laugh together, and sometimes you can even let her see the tears that slip out, and she understands it all, and she makes it okay. She gives flawless medical attention, but so much more than that. Sometimes she’ll just walk by and squeeze your arm, as if to say, “you’re doing fine, we’ve got this.” On the tough days, she might sit down and take your hand and say “are you okay? Some of these days are tough but you’re doing really well”, and magically, you are.
I watched her, day in and day out. It certainly wasn’t just me who she treated with such loving care. It was the same, and yet personal, for every patient she encountered. A big hug when you arrive and when you leave; meticulous attention to the task at hand. A kind lecture when you need it, and through it all, the obvious conclusion that she loves her work, and that nothing, nothing matters as much as her patients.
Sometimes if we are lucky, we encounter true angels in our lives. For me, and for my family who would come to visit, Diane Heald was such an angel. She has become a very special friend, and certainly, we will never forget her.