Patient experiences emotional journey

Bellingham | June 18, 2018
Caregivers act fast to help cancer survivor celebrate ‘Kodak moment’

Chelsea Nelson, RN, had looked forward to celebrating Feb. 7, 2018, for quite some time. Not only was it her son’s birthday, but it was also her last day of chemo. Yet, the day didn’t go at all as planned.

The backstory: The light at the end of the first tunnel

Chelsea, who had been a nurse in PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center’s surgical unit for three years, was fighting invasive breast cancer. She was 31 years old with no family history of cancer—a healthy, young mother with two small children at home.

Getting cancer was a powerful and humbling role reversal for Chelsea. It had provided her with a radical new understanding of her role as a nurse; she had discovered many more layers of compassionate healthcare and a whole new dimension of empathy. But it had also heightened her anxiety, and she had struggled along the way. It had not been an easy road.

Chelsea had started chemo in December, and her last treatment on Feb. 7 would mark the end of a difficult chapter of her cancer journey. It was serendipitous that this treatment would coincide with the fourth birthday of her younger son, Gannon.

Not meant to be

The day arrived, but what was expected to be a joyful day turned into a roller coaster of emotions.

Shortly before her last scheduled chemo appointment, Chelsea received a call that her insurance had declined her new chemo drug, and she couldn’t receive her planned treatment. (A recent allergic reaction to a different chemo drug had caused her to end up in the emergency room and necessitated switching to a new one.) She was absolutely devastated. The tears flowed freely.

Cancer Center caregivers to the rescue

Yet, the caregivers at the PeaceHealth St. Joseph Cancer Center would not let Chelsea’s special day be ruined. Flying quickly behind the scenes, they worked magic to ensure that her much-anticipated treatment could take place that day as planned.

Chelsea said she didn’t know how the team speedily reversed the upsetting news that she’d received earlier, but she was incredibly grateful that they did. “They were just so amazing, compassionate and wonderful,” she said. It meant the world to her.

Greg Beeks, operations manager of the PeaceHealth St. Joseph Cancer Center, was not surprised when he learned of the fast and conscientious action of his team. “This is exactly the type of individualized and proactive care we strive to provide for each and every patient—before, during and after treatment,” he said.

Ready for revelry

With her last chemo treatment completed, Chelsea was able to celebrate fully with her family. She knew that there would be more difficult days ahead, but she was able to stop and honor the occasion.

The black-and-white photo above captured a beautiful moment shared between Chelsea and Gannon at the birthday party. It is striking and poignant. And it’s a great depiction of loving care—both visible and behind the scenes.