Editor’s Note: This is the story of Joanna Burgess’s amazing and inspirational life. Joanna originally submitted the following story to be published in a major national magazine, but the magazine elected not to publish it, however their loss is our gain. Joanna Burgess is a nurse, a cancer survivor, a wife and the 2011 Great Comebacks® South Region Award Recipient and you can find out more about Joanna Burgess by clicking here. Part 3 of a 5 part series – originally published on the Courage to Shine website.
In that little homemade basement hospital, a seed was sown that in 1981 would come to fruition when I was accepted into nursing school at West Virginia Wesleyan College. I completed my BSN in 1985. My first nursing position was at Duke Hospital in the Department of Pediatrics. It was then that I obtained my medical records from Boston Childrens and first saw the word “rhabdomyosarcoma” as my diagnosis. This “rare cancer,” as I had always heard it referred to, had a name! For the first time I felt a personal connection to this particular cancer and in an odd way felt as if I had discovered a treasure buried deep in a pile of medical records. I had wanted to know this cancer and I had needed it to have a name – and now it did. I wanted to better understand how it had become a part of me and how it had affected my life. I stood transfixed, holding those papers as I began to appreciate what I had survived.
During my first year of nursing I had the opportunity to work with a three year old boy who had been newly diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma. He was facing many of the same things that I faced -chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a urostomy. His parents, although both in the medical field, were nonetheless devastated by the diagnosis. Like my own parents, they too were fearful of the diagnosis and fearful of their son having a urostomy, believing that it would change his personality and limit his opportunities. A good friend encouraged me to share my story with them. I had never before shared this part of my life with anyone beyond my family and close friends. But seeing this family’s daily devastation moved me. I walked into their room, a “normal looking” nurse, and walked out with a lifelong bond and connection. We remain in contact to this day sharing letters and stories and being a support for each other. They have given me insight into what my parents must have faced and I have offered them hope and guidance along their own journey.
Next: Joanna Burgess Practices Nursing In Honduras And Learns To Fully Appreciate Her Life
© Copyright 2012 Joanna J. Burgess
Addition links of Joanna Burgess to view:
2011 Great Comebacks® South Region Award Recipient and you can find out more about Great Comebacks® and Joanna Burgess at http://www.greatcomebacks.com/us/stories/Joanna-Burgess.shtml
Sarcoma Alliance Cares for Children and Young Adults – News Release about Joanna Burgess: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/9/prweb8834724.htm
If you would like to contact Joanna Burgess please do so by sending her an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward it to Joanna.