Being a pediatric oncology nurse, you hear a lot of the same things. “That must be so sad, I don’t know how you do it” “How do you deal with kids dying everyday?” The truth is, this is one of the happiest places I’ve ever worked as a nurse. I have been settled into my nursing career for 5 years, working in three different specialties. The first one I worked on an ortho/neuro floor, the second I worked on an organ transplant floor and then I finally landed my dream job as a pediatric oncology nurse. Going into the job, I knew a lot of emotions would come with the territory. I thought I would be able to bring sunshine and happiness to the kids and their families, but little did I know they would bring me more sunshine and inspiration than I could ever bring them. You see, these kids go through HELL. They experience more in their short lives than I’ve experienced my whole life. Some of these kids take more medicine than grown adults at 2 years old. But what really knocks me off my feet? Their joy. Their smiles. Their resiliency. I’ve watched a grown man cry over getting a subQ shot and a 5 year old laugh through it. I’ve heard an 8 year old get excited for a fever because it meant she could spend one more day with her hospital friends. The thing is, these kids define their situations, they don’t let their situations define them.
Last week, we had a housekeeper on our unit that was filling in for our usual one. She was sweet and had a smile on her face all morning. Finally, she came up to me and another nurse and said “this is the happy floor!” I looked at her and asked her to repeat what she said. Again, she said, “This is the happy floor. Everyone up here is smiling and having fun… I want to be on this floor all the time!” That resonated with me. She didn’t see kids pulling IV poles with bald heads. She didn’t see toxins pumping through our precious kids… she saw smiles. And laughs. And joy. She saw nurses celebrating a bone marrow transplant. She saw doctors dressing up as clowns and having fun, feeling like we did the impossible. She saw families celebrating life with other families.
The truth is- that IS our floor. We ARE the happy floor. We celebrate hours of life, sometimes minutes. We watch families who feel like they have nothing left to give… give their smiles. I watch nurses who I thought built a wall up, cry over a child completing treatment. If there’s anything I’ve learned here, it’s that life is short. And precious. Oh it’s so precious. Bad things happen to REALLY good people. We try not to take things for granted, so we celebrate. We dress up, we laugh, we sing, we dance. Don’t sweat the small stuff and love with all you have. If you’re feelin down or like you have nothing left to give… check in on a child battling cancer, they’ll change your life forever.