Saving Lives in Honor of His Late Mother – Jake Grez

I’d like to say that my family struggles have substantiated my best qualities, but I’m not sure who I would have been without them. Maybe I would have been as equally self aware, and our qualities are intrinsic rather than circumstantial. Maybe they are a mixture of both. In all cases, my conundrum is that I am appreciative for the experiences that I would have done anything to avoid, including my mother’s diagnosis of stage IV follicular thyroid cancer in 2005.

After my mom was diagnosed with cancer, there was no question that I was going to pursue some type of career within healthcare. I wondered whether my family or friends would frown upon the idea of me enter into nursing because I was a male? I didn’t care, as I knew this journey was one I had to unfold on my own. Watching other nurses care for my mom showed me that life is about finding the ways in which one can use his or her talents to serve others. Initiating nursing interventions and giving back to those in need is one of the purest ways to see tangible outcomes in real time, where your patients actually improve based on actions you set into place.

I learned a lot in the 11 years and 4 months that my mom battled cancer. No matter how many times she was told there was no cure, my mom held onto her faith. Some may have said it was unrealistic optimism, but this is just one of the many life lessons she taught me that I will hold onto for the rest of my life; unrealistic optimism is better than the alternative, giving up in despair. Her willingness to undergo various rounds of armament, from several series of radiation, to clinical trials and chemo – just for her children- was the purest form of love. She taught me the importance of perseverance, grit, and empathy. She instilled in me the importance of family.

Now almost 4 years later, I find myself in the beginning years of my nursing career, diving headfirst into a global pandemic. Relearning the importance of family and reconnecting to those who mean most to me. I do not regret my decision to become a nurse, despite those who thought I should have became a doctor, PA, or even a dentist. I am fortunate and grateful to be a part of the most trusted profession on the planet and I am impressed with my colleagues who are ready to tackle this head on and inspire me each and everyday. Because I am a nurse, I spend more time with my patients than most other health disciplines in the hospital and this allows me to cultivate meaningful relationships.

I’ve realized that being a nurse really is a privilege because it means you have the opportunity to connect with so many people from a wide variety of backgrounds on a weekly basis. I’ve learned that if you have a voice, you have influence to spread and if you hold patient relationships, you also have hearts to guide. Finally, I have learned that if you have experienced pain, you have empathy to share.