Creative Nursing, Volume 15, Number 3, 2009
Jean D. Humphries, PhD(c), RN
’m awake. My eyes are wide open. I stare at the gray shadows, and hear the
I monotonous whirring of machines. Is it early morning? Is it time to start my
day? Should I comb my hair and brush my teeth before a nameless person (“I’m
from the lab”) comes to stick a needle in my arm for blood? How can I even decide
this when my thoughts return to the enormous, ever-present elephant of knowl-
edge that I just had half of my gut removed because I HAVE CANCER. Jeez, I’m
just 41 years old!
I slide my hand into the over-bed table to pull out my faithful Timex watch—a
present from my girls—and press the dial to light up the numbers. It is 2:20 a.m.
Too early to stay awake! I should try to go back to sleep. I remember the comfort-
ing backrub that Matt, the evening nurse, gave me at the end of his evening shift.
I felt so relaxed after he left; I just drifted oﬀ to sleep. Now what do I do? Maybe
I can turn on my side, pull those tubes with me, and try to go to sleep. Especially
with an IV, it is so hard to get comfortable. I hate to turn on the call light. . . . I never
know who will come. Sometimes I ask for something, and they say, “I’ll have to get
your nurse.” They shouldn’t even bother to come in!
“I HAVE CANCER” replays over and over in my head. I thought the terrible
pain was from ovulation or constipation. Who will take of my 9- and 15-year-old
girls if I die soon? My ex-husband is remarried and lives 900 miles away! All the
girls’ friends are here, their schools, their church. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, be Jean D. Humphries,
strong! Now my gut hurts—push, push, push the “pain” button! PhD(c), RN, is a doc-
The door to the room opens, and in comes a young woman. She tells me that toral candidate at
Wayne State Univer-
her name is Blanche, she is my nurse tonight, and she needs to “hang an anti-
sity in Detroit, Michi-
biotic.” She looks at my wristband and then sees the tears in my eyes. “Are you gan. Her dissertation
okay?” she asks. I tell her, “Just a bad dream.” Blanche tells me, “I will start this will focus on sleep in
medicine and then help you turn and try to get you comfortable so you can go back to the acute care patient.
sleep.” After she turns me, Blanche massages my shoulders and back. I can feel She has practiced as
my muscles relax. She gets a warm blanket to put around my feet; I close my an emerg