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Being an oncology nurse assisted her through her treatment process

How does an oncology nurse react when she is informed she has cancer? In the case of Becky Pitts, lung cancer navigator at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC, she meets it with optimism, humor and a better understanding of her patients.

Earlier this year, Mrs. Pitts a 63 year old nurse, with over 30 years of experience in oncology, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her routine mammogram found a lump in one breast and as if that was not enough, an MRI found a lump in the other. Fortunately for Pitts, both lumps were found early and she underwent bilateral lumpectomy. She says, “It is very unusual to have one tumor in each breast. I got a two for one deal.”

Through the subsequent weeks, Pitts only missed a total of four days of work and while on duty, would only take a few minutes from her shift to dash to the radiology department to receive radiation treatments. On occasion she would meet up with her own patients while getting treatments. And while she preferred not to inform her patients of her diagnosis, she did jest that they thought she was really “getting into her job”.

On the serious side, Pitts feels that the experience has made her a better nurse and more empathetic towards her patients. “I think it’s certainly made me much more aware of waiting for the results, how anxiety-producing it is,” she says.

She also relates that being an oncology nurse assisted her through her diagnosis and treatment process. “I wasn’t surprised at how I wasn’t scared, because I know it is 95 percent curable. Even though I’m an oncology nurse and I’ve seen women die from breast cancer, I’ve seen so many women out there that don’t’. What is there for me to get upset about?”
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