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'What would Florence do? An unexpected ride on the rollercoaster: reflections of a Welsh Florence Nightingale Foundation Alumna'

We are delighted to be able to share with you this heart warming testimony of impact from Jane Price, Lead Nurse for Patient Experience, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and FNF Travel Scholar, as she reflects on her scholarship and the inbetween. 

'What would Florence do? An unexpected ride on the rollercoaster: reflections of a Welsh Florence Nightingale Foundation Alumna'

In 2012 I was privileged to undertake a Dignity in Care Travel Scholarship. It came at the wrong time in some senses. I was in the first year of a Masters course, my mother made a good attempt at dying in the same year and I don't have the most robust of health.  Some of the people who matter most to me in life, (while they didn't say it) thought I was overstretching myself, but knowing my stubborn streak they cheered me on & kept me going when things got particularly tough.

My scholarship mentor had advised me over our first cup of coffee together that it always helps to have a mantra when doing your scholarship for the times when (inevitably) things don't quite go to plan. I settled for 'what would Florence do?'  It served me well at the time and still does four years on.

I managed to finish the Scholarship, presented my work at conference and just had to publish. I also kept going with the MA and was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Then life crept up & whacked me on the back. We had three close family bereavements in quick succession, the last of which shook us to the core and we will always live with its consequences.

My mantra was all very well and good but now I had to dig deep. I wondered how I would be able to carry on. What would Florence do? I decided that she would make a plan, roll up her sleeves, and get on with it without fuss or complaint.  So I pushed on through.

 =Then, in 2015 I was diagnosed (rather perfunctorily) with uterine cancer. A bit of a bolt out of the blue.

I emerged in to the sunlight of the hospital grounds strangely unsurprised and incredibly composed. Drove to the local supermarket and parked my car after grabbing a coffee and a muffin (cake doesn't cure cancer but trust me, it does have its place!)

I wasn't quite sure what to do next but then I remembered my mantra.

I phoned my best friend who very inconsiderately lives on the east side of London.

'What are you going to do?' Good question. 

'I think I'm going to write a blog'. Weird answer? possibly.

I did and for me it was the right decision. It helped me in so many ways. It enabled me to make some sense of what was happening,  people who knew my situation to keep in touch without feeling the need to worry about when or whether to get in touch, other (not just those who I know) people seemed to like it and it got some really lovely positive feedback.

But for me at the time, the greatest benefit was that my shameless publicising of the blog with NHS staff who were involved in my treatment and care paid off. I'm one of those health professionals who gets driven to distraction by the less admirable aspects of the NHS: we aren't brilliant at acknowledging the things which we and our colleagues do well and frankly at times the traditions and systems in place are (at least to me) unfathomable and ridiculous. While I was on my Cancer Rollercoaster  Ride, these really came to the fore so I decided to address them as I went.  

What I hadn't expected was that those staff who did choose to follow my ramblings, responded and got on and made the easy changes in real time. My observations it seems, brought out the Florence (or equivalent) in them as well!

It's a year now since I was given my 'bad' news. I made a surprisingly spectacular recovery from the op, thanks to the theatre and ward team and the amazing enhanced recovery programme. I am minus my internal lady-plumbing and have emerged from the radiotherapy, scathed, but still standing - back in work and getting on with life.

Holly Berry (my alter ego) came to the attention of another Florence Alumna who is a nurse academic at the University of Wales  and in the coming year it looks as though I will be taking up the offer to contribute to  the content of a new MA course in cancer nursing. The blog will form part of the course learning and I have been offered an Honorary Lectureship into the bargain.

Better still my sponsor is hoping to secure funding to carry out research in the Health Board where I work that will focus on the experiences of health professionals who have had cancer. This will be an invaluable opportunity to learn from their experiences. Their view of cancer care and treatment through the looking glass has the potential to offer a unique insight.

I am even start to mutter thoughts about a PhD (watch this space) based on my real passion which is de-medicalising end of life care - the catalyst for the scholarship.

None of this would have happened without the sponsorship and support of the Florence Nightingale and James Tudor Foundations.

So in conclusion I just want to say to anyone considering applying and current scholars, go for it and make the most of it.

I'll leave the last word to Florence I think...

“Live life when you have it.

Life is a splendid gift-there is nothing small about it.”