Clinging onto Grace

The Setting

Have you ever been tubing behind a boat? It’s an activity I’ve enjoyed since I was a little kid. Sometimes when I’m hanging on tight and being whipped and thrown in every direction, I wonder why I enjoy it. But every time I end it is like a sense of accomplishment and the next opportunity I have, I come back for me.  Lately life has felt a bit like that. It’s a funny thing when life heads in a different direction than you planned and you grab onto the rope just trying to hang on. It almost feels like I’ve been half on a tube hanging on one handed for the last nine months of my life just trying to keep my head from going below and swallowing a bunch of water. Can anyone else relate?

If the me from nine months ago was looking in on my current life I wouldn’t even have any idea it was my life. The only things that are stable are my furniture, my dog, my cell phone number, and the fact that I remain an oncology nurse. So, I guess, when I reflect on the fact I feel exhausted and a bit wandering, it feels a bit more understandable.

Nine months ago I was dating someone, but knew it was probably about to end. I had absolutely no idea though how the break up would be drug out and get worse and worse as time went on. I had no idea that the duplex I had called home for 3 years would  no longer be my home come July 13th. I had no idea that I was headed from outpatient oncology to inpatient oncology. I had no idea that the women’s group I had been leading and leaning on for 3 years would be going on, but without me there. I had no idea that everything about my day to day life was about to change.

It’s all about grace…

So, as I’ve continued on in this season of learning about and leaning into grace, I’m learning more than ever what it means to give myself grace. As I navigate the somewhat familiar, but not home like streets of Indianapolis. As I learn a whole new job. As I hit speed bump after speed bump in life, or I guess, if we’re still going with the tubing concept, huge wave after huge wave, I’m learning I can’t have it all together. I’m learning that establishing a whole new home, a whole new job, a whole new church, a whole new friend group, and a whole new routine — it is absolutely exhausting.

And as I look around, I realize, we are all exhausted from this thing called life. I wonder how is it that we can help each other by easing the big waves, or providing assistance to help grab the other handle, or how is it we can help slowdown the boat to help each other? How is it that we can help each other to travel along life easier? And I think the answer comes in grace. Letting go of expectations where they should not be, giving people grace when they mess up, and realizing that we need to lean into the grace provided from up above.

Grace — I’m clinging onto you with every weary bone in my body. Trusting that this crazy tubing ride like life will at some point slow to a comforting float, but until that season, I’ll cling to grace.

A note to oncology care providers….

A few months ago my staff and I experienced multiple losses in a short period of time of patients we were very close with. This is a note I wrote to them to remind them that while our job is not easy, it is so worth it. To all oncology care providers out there, remember you are making a difference.

It was a tough week last week… which got me to thinking…

Recently I sat down at my new church to learn more about the church and in return, they wanted to learn about me. Quickly into my career as an oncology nurse I learned to just say “I’m a nurse” leaving out the oncology/cancer/hospice part. The reason for this is because once you say the word “oncology” or “cancer” and especially “hospice”, people’s faces tend to fall and the next question is often “how do you do it?”. In this particular case I did say just nurse first, but they proceeded to ask the question of what type of nurse, so I answered. Then I heard countless stories of how other people in the field of oncology had touched them and their family through cancer battles.

Each of you are a part of this team who makes a difference day in and day out in the lives of these patients and their loved ones. You hold their hands when they are scared, you clean up their puke, empty out their urinals, help them to the bathroom when they are too weak to make it on their own, but they want the dignity of going in a real toilet, you educate them on safety and why you need to be there, and the list goes on.

Each of us got on this career path for different reasons and each of us will be here a different amount of time. For some, it is a brief stop in their career journey. For others it will be their life’s work. Others it is somewhere in the middle. Some people landed here because you yourself or a loved one was personally touched by the care other healthcare providers in the oncology field provided. There are those that just landed in this because it was the open position. And others have a heart for oncology just because. No matter the time frame or reason, you matter.

So as I reflect back on the losses that we all felt deeply this week. As I think of the countless times I’ve felt the grief of losing an incredible patient to the horrible disease that is cancer, I want to encourage each of you. I want to let you know that you aren’t alone. I want to let you know that there is room to grieve. Most importantly though, I want you to know that you matter. That the work you are doing day in and day out is changing the lives of people, many of who have a ticking clock over their heads on how long they have left on this earth.

Oncology nursing has been my career plan since I was 16, but nursing leadership/management was not in that plan, that is more something that transpired as my career has progressed. As a leader on this unit, I am honored to work alongside each of you. You all and the patients are the reason I am here. And every time I hear “exceptional plus” or “satisfactory plus” in response to the care you are providing, my heart swells with joy and pride. Thank you for being a team that listens and truly cares. Thank you for caring, even when the pain runs deep. Please know my door is always open for a place to debrief and I’m walking alongside each of you. Thank you for making this unit exceptional plus.

The Year of 30 – Fear Facing

This morning I was sitting at my desk going through the stacks of cards I received for my birthday.

I hate my birthday, bad things happen, and this year was no different. As I reflected on this stack of cards, but more importantly who they came from and the words inside, I’m thankful. Often, when things are imploding around us, we tend to forget that we matter to people.

I had a really, really hard time turning 30. It felt like I was no longer “young”. I felt like I had accomplished so much between 20-25 and not so much between 26-30. I mean when you graduate 3 times in a 3 year span, it is kind of hard to beat such accomplishments again. 

So as I was turning 30, I reflected on the goals/aspirations I had that had not yet been obtained. My dream of being a nurse practitioner (yes, more school), has not yet been obtained. My dream of being a wife and mother has not yet come to fruition. I hadn’t traveled as much as I had planned. In many ways I still felt unsettled, a lack of stability. I also reflected on what the last half of my 20’s was, and what it was surprised me. It was a lot of healing from damaging relationship of all kinds in my early 20’s. It was also a lot of making a career for myself, which included surviving the night shift and the endless hours of anxiety a new nurse goes through. They were years of self discovery and self reflection. They were years that have brought me to where I am today, and for that I am thankful.

So last week as I faced turning 31 and parts of my life were in shambles around me, I actually didn’t struggle. Because if I’m honest, my 30’s have been off to a great start with loads of adventure. Also, I trust that my dreams will come to be when the time is ready, and with the right people and the right school programs. I have a peace about trusting in the timing to be right, and less of a need to get everything accomplished NOW.

Over the past year I went to Costa Rica and faced my fear of heights by jumping of the side of mountains to go zip-lining  and I would do it again in a heart beat.

I dated guys that are completely out of my normal and learned a great deal and have great memories as a result.

“Leadership isn’t a skill you have, it is a skill you learn”

After a great deal of wrestling over the decision and praying, I took on a management position at work. It hasn’t been easy, actually far from it, but as my wise little brother told me “Leadership isn’t a skill you have, it is a skill you learn”. And everyday, I am learning this more and more. But, I have to say, when someone says “my boss” in reference toe me, my immediate response is “that’s not me!”… and then I realize, actually technically, yes it is.

I faced a lot of fears this past year both personally and professionally. I feel like my word(s) for the year of 30 was fear facing and as I enter 31, grace is what resonates. Grace for others. Grace for myself. Grace for where I’ve been and where I’m going. But most importantly sitting in the beauty of the grace from my Heavenly Father – knowing that I will never be enough but through His grace, He is enough for me. There is a freedom in knowing I can’t reach the state of perfection I’ve longed to reach for so long, but in Him I am fulfilled. My job is simply to walk in His grace and be the best me I can be. So 31, let’s do this.

 

 

How Do You Do it?

How do you do it? It’s a question I get asked all the time about my job. Some days, on days like today, where I mourn the loss of a patient who was near and dear to my heart, I wonder. I wonder how do I continue to do this? But here’s the thing, even when my heart is laced in grief my response is this – how could I not do it? You see, the deeper I dig into the question, the longer I’m an oncology nurse, the older I get – the more aware I become of how things in life aren’t necessarily meant to be easy. Especially the best things in life.

Oncology Nurse

I still remember when I was 17 walking into a hospital and my thought was “this feels like home”. Sounds crazy, right? But there was something that drew me in, and continues to draw me in. The more I thought about and experienced the oncology field, the more I was hooked. I can’t explain it, and I’m not sure that any one of us can. This is what I do know though – you ask any of us who feel called to the oncology field and we can simply answer “I was made to do this”.

So instead of looking for ways for it to be easier, I’m looking for ways to walk through it well.

So as I have thought through and continue to think through the question “how do you do it?” I still keep coming back to, how could I not? I mean, I could not. I could walk away and enter another field of nursing and some day I might. But as for now, this is my calling, and I know this with my whole heart. So instead of looking for ways for it to be easier, I’m looking for ways to walk through it well.

I’m making a conscious decision to every day develop who I am and my coping mechanisms. I’m choosing to surround myself with community that will walk through life with me. I’m digging into who I am, how I was created, and working on making myself the healthiest I can possibly be.

Most importantly though, I’m choosing to focus on the things that make me love my job. I mean, for a science nerd, to be in one of the fastest advancing medical fields is incredible. The amount of new drugs coming out is breathtakingly awesome. Not to mention I work with some of the best doctors, nurses. CNAs, midlevels, and other office staff around. They are like family to me.

I wish that just for a moment you could get a glimpse into the incredible people’s souls who entrust me to walk with them through the hell they are living in.

The best part though? The patients and their loved ones. The fact that because of my job, I have met some of the most amazing people is enough, but it doesn’t stop there. I wish that just for a moment you could get a glimpse into the incredible people’s souls who entrust me to walk with them through the hell they are living in. I have witnessed what true love looks like in all sorts of relationships. It’s in the husband who still finds his wife beautiful, even when all her worldly beauty is gone. It’s in the son who makes his work schedule around when his mom has chemo treatments. It’s in the friend who cancels her plans on spare of the moment to take their very sick friend to treatment. It’s in the adult kids who take care of their dying father in his final days so he can be at home.

So instead of asking me “how do you do it?” Ask me “how can I help you do this?”

These people, the patients and their loved ones, challenge me to be a better person. To love deeper. To live well. To embrace all emotions – both the good and the bad.  To be the best me I can be.

So instead of asking me “how do you do it?” Ask me “how can I help you do this?” Because that is what we need. Any of us in fields that are as emotionally tough as the oncology field need the cheerleaders on our side. Walking with us, crying with us, listening to us. This is the best thing you can do for us, so that we can continue to do what we were made to do, and do it well.

 

 

Nursing: I Didn’t Choose it Because it Was Easy

As a nurse, there are weeks of work where I don’t sit longer than to quickly shove down my lunch down and to speedily chart. There are times I end a day with my legs aching and barely the strength lift  open my eyes and all I can think is “my brain hurts.” But even in those moments, I can sit and say I love what I do. I didn’t choose it because it was easy, I chose it because I care.

Oncology Nurse

I’ve written about my job often, about how it isn’t easy and why I love it. This isn’t anything new. But every day I discover something new about why I love what I do. I love that my friends have different interests and passions. Hearing about what other people do for their jobs is one of my favorite things. We were all created differently and with a separate purpose. Even within my field there are many different types of oncology nurses and I get to learn how to be a better nurse through each of them.

There is one thing that is in common though with each oncology nurse I know. They care and they care deeply.

I don’t know what your passions are. I don’t know if like me you are a nurse or if you like economics or if you get how computers work from the inside out or if you create the most beautiful things. But I hope you love what you do. Or have something in your life that you love what you get to do there.

I can say even in the toughest moments of my life when I know I’m hugging that young mom for the last time or I’m speaking to the family member as they look at me and ask me if their loved one is dying I love what I do. Because I know without a doubt I was created to do this.

 

Note: this post was originally published on November 10, 2014.

I Wouldn’t Change a Thing

Recently I was talking with someone who doesn’t know me very well and they asked if I see myself in oncology nursing for the rest of my career. I answered honestly – I can’t imagine my career without working with cancer patients in some way, shape, or form. I truly do love what I do. Even when the world seems to be crashing, I can’t catch up, my feet ache, my brain hurts, I’m sobbing over exhaustion, or I’m sobbing over grief. I was made to do this. I’m not exactly sure when cancer patients became a passion of mine – it was more something that seems to have been weaved into the soul of who I am made to be.

WorldCancer

It’s World Cancer Day. So what does World Cancer Day mean to me? Continue reading “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing”

Class of 2008

As a graduate in the middle of the Great Recession with a graphic design and fine art degree, my experience of the job market and career opportunities is greatly skewed. I didn’t fully realize this until my interview for the job I currently have. It went something like this:

The owner of the company, now my boss, takes the samples I’ve brought to show my design ability (mostly my wedding invitations, programs, save the dates, etc), looks at them for maybe 20 seconds and says, “Why haven’t you been doing this (meaning graphic design) all along?”

Deep sigh, “Well I graduated in 2008…”

“Ah, that explains it.”

It was not until this statement was spoken into my life that I realized how frustrated I was as an artist and a young professional. I was stunned and grateful.

Source
Source

To say I was a good student in school would be an understatement. Overachiever would be more appropriate. But when I graduated, I couldn’t even get a job at a coffee shop, let alone a job in my field. And I had coffee shop experience! This was not the world I was expecting. I was told from kindergarten on that if you work hard, do your best in school and graduate from college, you’ll get a good job. I wasn’t expecting a design job, but I was expecting to at least be able to pay my bills. Little did I know the world had drastically shifted. Continue reading “Class of 2008”

Why Inspiration Matters

Essentially the reason for the post is a lot of friends are frustrated in their current jobs. It’s like they have totally lost sight as to how or why they are where they are. The vision gets cloudy. Then they say…jumping ship to new job! But when I feel that way I have to begin looking for the inspiration that surrounds me. Sometimes it’s grim and other times it’s plenty and I’m just being dumb. I want to encourage others to see inspiration where they reside…I want to scream, “open your eyes! It’s there!” Before they say, “I’m out!”

There’s a reason you’re at where you are at. But don’t just give up so easily, you know? I think people get into a job and they say if this job isn’t what I want, well I can do better. Sometimes you do need new employment, but I think a lot of times it’s us missing open opportunities. I once knew a guy that worked with me at X-games. He was a higher up…but guess what? He started as a janitor! If he had said, “ahh screw this” he would have never been where he is now! (sigh) Hang in there!

Inspire

So I suppose that is really what I’m trying to say is Inspiration helps move the “I’m stuck” notion. It keeps the momentum moving slowly until the momentum starts to pick up again.

I’ve been there too…

“I am Catie Manning and I am going to be a Marketing Guru and a Hair Stylist. I am going to be a motivator and cheerleader!”

When I realized I was under appreciating my job roles – that a lack of acknowledgment of their lessons and values was holding me back – my perspective began to shift. I had to “take myself out of it” for a minute to “get it.” Does that make sense? I needed to remove myself from my situation and look at it critically to see that I was the one causing my pain. When I started assessing what I needed to feel satisfied in a career, I saw one missing piece. It was a big piece – one that led to my lack of fulfillment. Here it is: I was in a creative role without actually being creative in any way! How is that possible? A creative without a canvas is like a chef without food – it simply cannot be. That is what sparked a new take on inspiration. I learned why inspiration matters.

TheEagles

I have to be thankful for experience in cosmetology school and the lessons I learned there. I worked with clients on a daily basis, drudging along doing the same ole task (sort of…) – it can be really hard for someone who wants to be the go-to girl! It was the clients who gave me the inspiration to want to achieve more. The clients who show up regularly with their fires and rush requests – there insistent energy. The clients that kept me employed and keep a roof over my head. They inspired me be the best I could be and never to give up. I am forever thankful for that inspiration, as it has become the momentum behind my professional drive.

Love her or hate her, Taylor Swift is one of the classiest women in the entertainment business today. I heard that she finds inspiration in her fans. Recently, she noticed that one follower in particular, whom she usually finds very inspiring, was not doing well. She was down about her unpaid student loans so Taylor responded in a big way:”she painted her a picture, sent her some gifts, and shocked her with a check for $1,989 (the title of her album, how clever!) for her student loans. In general, she supported her. You see? Inspiration matters.

Inspiration and creating inspiration for others matters!  It affects how you view your job. It affects how you interact with your customers and clients. Inspiration is what gives you a  jump-start and builds momentum when it seems to be moving slowly.

When our career comes to a slow part, when we question every ounce of why we originally chose the direction we did, when we feel puny and small and that we simply Do. Not. Matter. That is when we must open our eyes, dig deep and find the inspiration to keep going. Keep pushing and driving for success. You can do it, I know you can!

Oncology Nursing Chose Me

This is a guest blog from Erin E. She currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI with her family where she works on an inpatient oncology unit. I (Erica) am honored to call her not only a colleague but one of my dear, dear friends. Your heart is an inspiration, Erin!

I didn't choose to bean oncology

People often ask how I chose to work in oncology. I usually tell them my story and what brought me to Grand Rapids and my oncology patients. The truth is, oncology chose me. As a new nurse, I was hungry to work. I was yearning to put all my nursing skills from school to use. Every area in nursing was new and exciting. I wasn’t fully sure where I would thrive and which area I would enjoy best.

Continue reading “Oncology Nursing Chose Me”

How I Learned What “Thankful” Means

It was just a short three years ago that I experienced it for the first time, and I was one and a half months into my nursing career. Since I was still on orientation, I was lucky enough to have Thanksgiving off. I did however work that Wednesday prior. As I wrapped up my shift at the end of the day,  I noticed the sullen, quiet lull that took over the halls of the hospital. Everyone who could be discharged, was. Patients who were still in the hospital were there for one of three reasons: they were either receiving chemo that required them to be there, they were unstable, or they were actively dying. After my shift concluded I jumped in my car for the three hour drive from Michigan to Indiana.  During the car ride I began to understand what being thankful truly looked like.

morning drop, anchor drop, inspiration

Continue reading “How I Learned What “Thankful” Means”

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