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25 Things I Have Learned as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse

Written by guest contributor Megan Kern

When I reflect on my time working as a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse, I am at a loss for words. I will never be able to adequately convey the honor it is to care for these young warriors. And while this job has given me a front row seat to incredible despair, it has also given me glimpses of what I can only imagine heaven to be like. Putting my experience into words may be impossible, but I can share the things I have learned in my years caring for and loving these patients and their families. 1 | Bring tissues to end-of-therapy bell ringings. There are few things sweeter than watching a family rejoice together.

2 | Numbing cream and cold spray are always a good idea. 3 | Celebrate the little victories. 4 | Calories in the hospital don’t count. Well, not really… but shouldn’t that be the case? 5 | God is bigger than any cancer diagnosis. 6 | But also, cancer really sucks. 7 | Don’t order fish from the hospital cafeteria. Trust me on this one. 8 | Take the vacation; life is short. 9 | Be kind to the people you encounter; you really don’t know what battles they may be fighting. 10 | Sometimes you just have to dance it out. 11 | Breaking down on the highway is not the end of the world. There are people who would give anything to be having the “terrible day” that you have had. 12 | “Roid rage” is for real. If you know, you know. 13 | Don’t forget to hug the people you love every chance that you get. 14 | Post-chemotherapy nausea is a beast. 15 | Life is a gift. 16 | If your life is boring, be thankful. Full disclosure: I stole this one from my primary patient’s mother, but it is so true. 17 | Laughter is some of the best medicine. 18 | Birthdays are a big deal. The number of parents who pray for their kid to make it to their next birthday has opened my eyes to the gift that each day is. 19 | Bald is BEAUTIFUL. 20 | My patients are my heroes. Every day I learn something from a patient I’m taking care of. I am honored to know these sweet warriors. 21 | Miracles do still happen. 22 | Life is the little things. As cliché as it is, smell the roses. There are so many people who no longer have that chance. 23 | The resilience of kids is amazing. 24 | Popsicles make most things better. 25 | Being with a family when a patient goes to meet Jesus is one of the hardest but most beautiful things you’ll ever witness.

This list could never encompass all of the things I’ve learned. I wish you could meet the kids that I have. I’ve cared for patients who have gone on to study nursing in college. I’ve cared for kids who have turned out to be soccer stars and scholars. And I’ve cared for kids who have gone to meet Jesus way before any of us were prepared for them to go. It is not lost on me how blessed I am to know these little fighters. I cannot tell you how excited I am to see these heroes in heaven, whole and happy and with their Maker. I wish cancer didn’t exist, but as long as it does, I’m doing my best to tell my loved ones that I care for them, and I’m anxiously awaiting the day that I will see the sweetest kiddos whole and happy and healthy again.

Megan Kern has worked as a pediatric hematology and oncology nurse at CHOA for over six years. In that time, Megan has fallen in love with the patient population she’s worked with and their families, and she’s also had a blast serving as a medical lead on several Lighthouse retreats. “While I am forever hoping and praying for a cure that would put me out of this job, I’m immensely grateful for the things I have learned from these kids and their families,” Megan shares.

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