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Wilmot Stories

Natalie Santacesaria, RN

Nurse, Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit

I am a new oncology nurse, but I am not new to oncology.  My experiences with cancer began in 2011 when my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  She fought for five years, and gracefully passed away in June 2016. 

Every day as a nurse, I have the opportunity to change a life, while at the same time, changing my own.  By recognizing and appreciating the diversity in others, their emotions, coping mechanisms, their idiosyncrasies, my perspective is constantly enhancing.  It helps me and every patient I encounter after. Every day, nursing challenges me to understand love, gratitude, and tragedy in new way. 

I sat with a patient today, with her and her tears.  I took her hand as she admitted her fears — of her cancer, of her treatment, and of a possible end to it all.  I sat with her and I listened, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Nursing is the art of being ready and willing to lend my heart to strangers in need. I recognize the humanity in each and every patient, all the while understanding that in connecting with these individuals, I am making myself vulnerable. 

Nursing is more than giving medication and hanging fluids.  It is more than Strong Star recognition and excellent reviews.  Nursing is a balancing act of empathy, compassion, and sanity.  I am an oncology nurse because I want to genuinely impact the lives of individuals through awareness and acceptance of their feelings.   

With each metastasis my mom faced, she said, “I get a day, a day where I get to cry and say ‘why me,’ and then tomorrow I’ll get back up, and I’ll make a plan.”  In the face of uncertainty and emotional turbulence, nurses allow that one singular day, to feel, to release, and to accept.  Tomorrow though, we come ready to prop our patients’ spirits, and their pillows, as we are ruthless warriors in the face of their disease.

And so, I am a new oncology nurse, still perfecting my assessment skills and sometimes intimidated by my Alaris pump.  I work to improve these tactical competencies just as much as I work to understand my patients — their stories, their fears, their joys.  As a nurse, I believe it is my duty to love honestly and selflessly every single day because I recognize the incredible gift I have to change a person’s life. 

“Nursing is the art of being ready and willing to lend my heart to strangers in need,” Natalie says.