Every year in November, Ochsner Health System holds its annual Moonlight & Miracles Gala, the non-profit organization’s premier annual fundraiser. This year’s event will be held on November 13 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, and funds raised from the gala will once again benefit the Ochsner Cancer Institute, the largest nonprofit system in the Gulf South region to provide multidisciplinary care for adult and pediatric cancer patients.
This year, the event will recognize the relationships between patients and their caretakers. However, the word “caretaker” does not fully tell their story. Hear one oncology nurse’s personal experience with her patients told in her own words below:
As a young child, I always knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. By the time I entered college, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. Oncology was never a field that I saw myself in when I was in nursing school. I actually started out in orthopedics and happened to fall into it when a great opportunity came up to work in a 9-5 setting. Little did I know that I was going to fall in love with oncology.
My patients help me to no longer take certain things in life for granted and to live life to the fullest, no matter what. They have helped me to see the good things in life and not to focus on the petty negativity that can always come our way. From the day they are diagnosed, they are fighting for their lives. As an oncology nurse, I get to assist them in the fight of their lives. They are very appreciative of everything I do for them, from getting them a warm blanket to just sitting down and talking about everyday life. Most of my patients have become family, but one in particular has become a second father to me: Raymond Danos.
Raymond was one of our patients fighting colon cancer which had spread to his liver. From the first time I laid eyes on him in early 2011, there was something special about him – he was just so easy to talk to. Over the course of his treatment, I began to develop a special bond with him and his wife, Ruby. I could talk to them about anything, and I mean ANYTHING! I was having trouble in my marriage at the time and they gave me a finger rosary (which I still carry with me every day). Once the decision was made for a divorce, they were there for me every step of the way. There he was, fighting cancer and helping his nurse go through the emotions of a divorce. I mean, how incredible is that?
Even though he is finished with his treatment and is cancer-free today, we are still a very big part of each other’s lives. He came and saw me in the hospital after my neck surgery, and I saw him after his hernia repair. We talk on the phone and catch up on what’s going on in each other’s lives. They call me their daughter, and I truly feel like I am one to them too. I am so blessed to have them in my life. If it wasn’t for being an oncology nurse, our paths would have never crossed – I am so thankful they did!
- Amanda Woolery, RN, BSN
Amanda Woolery, RN, BSN, graduated from LSUHSC School of Nursing in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She has been in the outpatient side of oncology for 9 years and has been at Ochsner for the past 6 years. In May of 2015, she became Clinical Research Coordinator for the Neuroendocrine Tumor Program at Ochsner Medical Center - Kenner in Louisiana.
Amanda is shown in the photo above. From left to right are the following: Amanda Woolery, Ruby Danos, Raymond Danos, Erica Schmidt and Lisa Schmidt (Erica and Lisa were also Raymond's chemotherapy nurses at Ochsner).
Hear more of Raymond's personal journey of fighting cancer – and other cancer survivors’ experiences as well – in this very special “I Believe in Miracles” video.