This is a guest post by Indianapolis accelerated nursing student Andrea Gregory.
“Andi, it’s Dad. Please call me back. It’s about Nana. The doctors are saying she’s bleeding internally. It’s really not looking good. Please call me back. Okay?”
I remember receiving this voicemail from my father like it was yesterday, although it came over 10 years ago. My heart fell, and my stomach dropped to the floor. My grandmother, “Nana,” was a fifteen-year survivor of breast cancer. When her cancer returned, it spread to her hip and spine. I knew this and had to mentally prepare myself for what my father would tell me. After calling him back, he broke the news that Nana might not make it through the night. I hung up the phone and just prayed that I could see her again and thank her for everything she had done for me.
My prayers were answered; Nana made it through the night. In fact, she made it for another 42 nights. She was a fighter. I remember when I visited her in the hospital, her eyes lit up. The nurses in the room were so gentle with her and were trying to feed her, talk to her and make her laugh. Anything to make her feel better. I wanted to do the same for her. I wanted to put on a brave face and make her comfortable. I wanted to see her at peace, even though I knew she was in excruciating pain.
For the following days that she remained in a hospital bed, I went to see her every day after school. I was so distraught knowing that I wouldn’t have much time with her, so I wanted to make every minute count. My aunt and I would sing and dance to bring a smile to Nana’s face. She and I reminisced about the memories we had made, and I talked to her about whether she was scared of what was to come. She said, “Andi, if I was going to get out of this hospital, it would have already happened. I know where I am going so no, I am not scared.”
Nana was well-known in her community. She was a member of her church choir and played the piano for the church for as long as I can remember. She was a volunteer, a “Pink Lady,” at the same hospital where she was now spending her final days. In the summers of my seventh and eighth grade years, I went with her to volunteer at the same hospital as a candy striper. The days passed quickly seeing the smiles on patients’ faces after delivering flowers to them. This experience with Nana inspired me to be a better person. I wanted to care about people like she did, hold the same kind of faith that she did and have the same kind of heart that she did.
No one wants to see a member of their family suffer, especially from something as awful as cancer. The blessing in Nana’s case was time. Time to say goodbye. You see, Nana was the glue that held my family together. She had every appointment for my grandfather written down, she got my father and stepmother involved in the church and choir, she came to every sporting event for my brother and every musical for me. She was her family’s biggest fan.
When Nana passed, it was heartbreaking. However, she left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten. She continues to inspire me every day to be a better person, and strive to be the best person I can possibly be. I did not realize it at the time, but it was also Nana who inspired me to become a nurse. During the days spent in the hospital with her, I would watch the nurses and their passion for taking care of my grandmother. From an outside perspective, it was so comforting to know that people who started out as strangers could be trusted to care for her just like family. The nurses cared for her like she was their own grandmother. They poured out the same kind of love and passion that my grandmother exuded.
It was a cloudy day in October when I realized in my grandmother’s hospital room that I wanted to help people. I didn’t know how, but I knew the gratification I felt every time I left that hospital. I knew I had to find a career where I felt this same kind of reward. The kind of career where you can walk in, and no matter what you face that day, you give it your all to show that you care.
Years passed following Nana’s death, and although I had already received a bachelor’s degree, I still had not found a career I felt passionate about. So, I made a plan to go back to school. I started my 16-month journey at Marian University and have not looked back once. I want to change people’s lives. I want to be a patient advocate and show patients that I care. With this career, the possibilities are endless. The first time I walked into a patient’s room, I knew that I would never regret this decision. Looking back on my days of volunteering with Nana, I realized that this was her goal for me all along. She knew that being a nurse was my true calling. I will always be so grateful for having a grandmother who taught me how to love others and to look past myself to see the bigger picture. She inspired me to become a better person and inspired me to embark on a career in nursing. I am excited for what the future holds, and I just hope that I can make my Nana proud.