As she lay dying from pancreatic cancer, Nurse Martha Keochareon wanted to do more than plan her funeral. So she called her alma mater and offered to become a “case study” for nursing students. She reasoned she could help students learn about the dying process while, at the same time, it would be a way for her “to squeeze one more chapter out of life.”
I loved this story. First, as a retired nurse educator, I was struck by Nurse Keochareon’s selfless giving. I could identify with her desire to teach; as nurses we are taught, along with being caregivers, to be teachers (as well as communicators, researchers, leaders and more). I believe we consider it a duty and a privilege to empower our patients or students with the resources they need to function successfully in their lives.
Second, Nurse Keochareon had lived with pancreatic cancer for more than six years. Her story of this unusually long experience would have been of great interest to me because my brother died from that type of cancer in less than a year. What did she know about her prognosis from the beginning? What type of treatments did she have? What quality of life did she have during that long period of time?
And third, I love how she expressed the personal benefit she would get out of sharing her story with nursing students: “to squeeze one more chapter out of life.” For anyone, writer or reader, who enjoys books, just muse about this phrase for a minute…to squeeze one more chapter out of life.
Let’s rephrase that into a question we can ask ourselves: If I had one more chapter to squeeze out of my life, what would I want to write in that chapter? Based on the “to do” list I compiled recently on a beach chair in Aruba, I have at least ten things to cram into that chapter. And that’s just for starters.
What about you?
Read Nurse Keochareon’s story, featured in the January 11, 2013 New York Times.