AJN Best of The Blog Features Post by JparadisiRN

Manicure by Julianna Paradisi 2014

It’s an honor to have my post and illustration,  A Brief Meditation on Love, Loss, and Nursing, originally published on Off the Chartsthe blog of the American Journal of Nursing, featured in the February issue of AJN

Click on the link above to read the issue online, and find look for Best of the Blog, A Brief Meditation on Love, Loss, and Nursing, in the table of contents.


Thank You, Even If It Might be Random

Argonauta: My Back to The Beach mixed media on paper by jparadisi

If the only prayer you ever say is “thank you,” that would suffice.

Meister Eckhart

Thank You.

My oncologist called yesterday afternoon with the test results: I do not have cancer. I do have gi-normus bilateral implant ruptures, which need surgery. David and I saw the MRI results at the oncology office. The ruptures are so huge that the woman who used the word “explode” was actually right. The oncologist validates that my symptoms could definitely be the result of a spontaneous rupture this big. I’m waiting for the scheduler from the plastic surgeon’s office to call.

David was out on a bike ride when the oncologist called. I emailed all my family and friends with the good news before he came home, so he was the last to know. The expressions that flashed across his face when I told him I had the results went from tension, to fear, to joy in the span of a moment. I didn’t cry then, but tears are in my eyes as I write this post. I could see how worried he was, and I felt bad about being the cause of his concern. A part of the worry about recurrence is fear of becoming a burden to this man I love so much. I’m not the only cancer survivor I know who asked herself before she married if it is a fair thing to do to to someone you love. I counsel others that “cancer people need love too,” but I know how they feel.

When I went through surgery and chemotherapy twelve years ago, I made two wishes. I wished to become an artist, and I wished to fall deeply in love and be loved deeply back.

David and I worked together as pharmacist and nurse for ten years before we dated. I didn’t know him personally until I was working light duty during my cancer recovery. During that time, we sat on committees together, and developed a friendship. He knew about my treatment, all my coworkers did. He saw me lose my hair, saw me bald, and saw my hair grow back. Somewhere through all of that, he fell in love with me. I didn’t realize it at first. I mean, we’d worked together for ten years. What kind of man falls in love with a bald, breastless nurse? A damn fine man. The best person I have ever met, and that’s saying a lot, because I know lots of really good people.

We started dating a year after my recovery, and married three years later.

Two weeks ago, while we sat in the waiting room before my MRI, I took off my wedding ring for David to hold while I had the test. Out of his jacket pocket, he pulled the original cardboard box that held the small, velvet jewelry box our wedding rings came in. His ring was already inside the box. “They need to stay together,” he told me. If the tech hadn’t come to get me that moment, I would have cried. In fact, I did cry a little on the MRI table thinking about how good my life is, and how much would be lost if the cancer had recurred.
Thank You.
I don’t know why I am a lucky one. I’ve stopped wondering why I’ve been blessed with such a positive outcome when so many others are not. I am no more special than any of my patients or friends who have succumbed. Most of the time it feels like a poker game and all any of us can do is pick up the cards we are dealt. Maybe it is that random, I don’t know. But if it’s not, Thank You.

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

Here is a lovely bit of poetry written by Charles Bukowski and read by Tom Waits.  In case you didn’t receive roses or a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, or even if you did…

Love and Hands

photo by jparadisi 2010

Last week I had a manicure before leaving town. While each finger was polished with French tips, I thought about how much I love my hands. The painter Georgia O’Keeffe had beautiful hands, and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, photographed them for the world to appreciate. My hands are not particularly beautiful. If I hold them out straight, the long, thin fingers on the left curve a little west and the ones on the right curve a little east. I have small hands, like a child’s. My sister teases that when I am very old, they will be as dry and bony as a sparrow’s clawed feet, and I know that she is right.

Still, I love my hands, for what they do. My hands can start an IV, or deftly place a needle into a chest port. They expertly wrap wounds or cool a fevered brow. My hands can press a chest to keep the heart within it beating so well that a physician once remarked during a code, “It is too bad that a life can not be saved by perfect blood gas results alone, because this patient is receiving superb CPR.” With a pencil or brush, my hands can capture the likeness of a face on paper, or sculpt a figure out of clay. I have hands that work for a living. They are tools of expression.

The next day, my fingers with the beautiful French tips, wrap themselves around the twine handles of a bag that hold the ashes of my father, and the same hands carry them to the boat from which my family honors his request to scatter them on the sea. My hands trembled a little as I read the eulogy. After I finished, they wiped tears from my eyes.  Suddenly, the boat roughly lurched forward. I was thrown off balance and reached out to steady myself, but there was no rail for my hands to grasp. My brother’s strong hands reached out for me, pulling me to safety, and held me close.  “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, you’re not going overboard,” he spoke into my ear, as I cried into his chest.

The most important thing about anyone’s hands is their ability to hold.