Alysa Cummings joined the OncoLink team in 2002 and we have not been the same since! We had the honor of writing a forward for a book Alysa wrote earlier this year (see Bob Riter’s review) and we think it sums up her contributions to OncoLink and our love for her. Ten Years Later and Still Going Strong.
Monday morning. Open the inbox and there they are staring back at me – 100 new emails.
Among them is one from someone named Alysa Cummings. Like many others, I skim it and move on, unable to respond in the moment. Too many other issues are competing for my attention right now.
Fortunately, Alysa isn’t a sit-back-and-ignore-my-email kind of gal. She persists, emails again and again, until she gets my attention. And so begins a 10 year relationship between the oncology nurses from OncoLink and Alysa, our Poet-in-Residence, friend and colleague.
As oncology nurses, we never went home from work without feeling the rewards of having made a difference in someone’s life. Now as Oncolink editors, a transition to a virtual world of patients has not always been easy; many days we have longed for that connection with a patient or their family. We loved that part of our clinical roles. Alysa, in a way, has filled that void for us.
We have worked with Alysa for 10 years now – communicating mostly through email messages and phone calls – and believe it or not, can count on one hand the number of times either of us have been in the same room with her.
Some might think this “virtual” relationship would be superficial, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Alysa has invited us (along with OncoLink website visitors) into her CancerLand in a deeply personal way. We have formed an emotional connection with the person who wrote these stories – in much the same way we did with our patients in our clinical roles as oncology nurses. Over the years, she has made us laugh and cry and we have loved every minute of it.
While it is hard to choose, a few pieces stand out as our favorites: Dear Doctor, Me and My Vampire and In the Name of Pinkness. Alysa has a way of making us relive those moments with her. Making us feel the emotions she felt as a cancer patient in treatment.
At the same time, she has a unique ability to see both sides of the fence. She lets us know (as healthcare professionals) when we are doing something wrong or being insensitive, but she also applauds loudly when we get it right.
One of her blog pieces, It’s Not About the Jigsaw Puzzle, played a role in the design of our cancer center’s new radiation waiting area. She put into words what we as nurses instinctively knew: patients benefit from interacting with other patients. We showed her piece to the powers-that-be and reminded them of the importance of cultivating these relationships – to help both patient and caregiver alike.
So, as you can see, our 10 year relationship has been much more than “virtual;” it is a deeply personal, emotional bond that we can’t imagine not having. Her contributions to OncoLink are numerous and have given visitors “the softer side” that we, as nurses, can’t always relay.
You are certain to feel that special connection as you read Alysa’s writing.
Maggie Hampshire, RN, BSN, Managing Editor
Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, OncoLink Nurse Educator