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Very First Clinical Experience Falls on 5-year Cancer Anniversary
On January 17, 2019, Kent State University College of Nursing sophomore Maddie Boone celebrated five years cancer-free in a special way - at the hospital for her very first day of clinicals. A date that has long troubled Maddie, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and also suffered a broken hip the same day in 2015, will now be filled with hope for the future. “I woke up very nervous that morning, but I was determined to change this date from one that haunted me to one of positivity,” said Maddie. That first day was an introduction and orientation to the cardiac telemetry unit at Summa Hospital. The next week, Maddie and her classmates were taking vitals and passing medications under the supervision of their instructors. “It is very humbling for me to be on the other side of the nurse-patient relationship. My own experiences are always in the back of my mind because they help me see things from my patients’ perspectives, too.”
Maddie, a resident of Lebanon, CT, found Kent State College of Nursing through an internet search. Coming from a relatively small hometown, she worried about attending a larger university and was surprised by its homey and small-town feel during her campus tour. “Now I walk around campus and see so many familiar faces. Everyone has been so friendly here.”
Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage 2A during her freshman year of high school, Maddie suffered from a months-long persistent cold and noticed the formation of a strange lump on the side of her neck prior to receiving the devastating news. “Two weeks had passed before I went to the doctor. She prescribed me a strong antibiotic which obviously did nothing.” Following the unsuccessful administration of antibiotics, Maddie underwent a series of tests to determine what was causing the lump. A biopsy was scheduled and a few days later the results confirmed Maddie and her family’s worst fear – cancer. “At 14 years-old, I didn’t fully understand what this meant. I had a cheerleading coach who had lost their battle with cancer. I only knew it as a death sentence. I was afraid I was going to die.” She immediately began a week of chemotherapy before returning home to rest and recover for two weeks. Altogether, Maddie completed four rounds of week-long chemotherapy treatments in addition to two weeks of Proton Radiation Therapy in Philadelphia, PA.
Through the support of her family and friends, Maddie persevered. “My mom told me I could look at this experience two ways; I could let it break me or I could rise above it. I decided I wasn’t going to let cancer determine my life or let this be all that I was. I took things one day at a time and looked for positive aspects such as chemo making shaving unnecessary!” Maddie’s cheerleading squad provided motivation and encouragement as well. “My cheer team wanted to raise money and do something special, so they created a t-shirt that said Maddie’s Mission and sold them in the community. My sister helped them coordinated a day for everyone at school to wear the shirts when I would be there. It was cool to see that kind of support.”
Becoming a nurse was not always Maddie’s dream. In high school she thought about becoming a teacher, but after her diagnosis, found herself drawn to nursing. “I had an amazing nursing staff who cared of me. They each took the time to make sure I had movies, games, or other fun things to get me through the day. I want to make a difference for others like those nurses did in my life.” Through her nursing courses, Maddie has discovered that she will be able to tie her love of teaching into her nursing career as well. “I’m going to be teaching my patients how to properly care for themselves after they are discharged from the hospital. It’s the best of both worlds for me.”
Today, Maddie is doing great. “It’s been five years and I feel like I did before my diagnosis,” said Maddie enthusiastically. “All of my scans have come back clear and I’m now considered a cancer survivor!” This experience has taught Maddie much about herself. She shared that she was able to remain positive during her cancer treatments and believes nothing will be able to prevent her from continuing to be a positive person. “When I’m stressing about things now, I remind myself I’ve already kicked cancer’s butt. I can overcome anything. Whatever I’m facing, in reality, is not such a big deal.”
Hoping to give encouragement to others diagnosed with cancer, in addition to fellow nursing students, it has been important for Maddie to share her cancer journey on social media. “My story shows people where life can take you and reminds you not to sweat the small stuff. It’s true what they say, the sky is the limit. You can reach any goal or dream you set your mind to. Don’t let a diagnosis define who you are or who you want to be.”
Looking to the future, Maddie plans to attend graduate school and become a geriatric nurse practitioner. “I used to volunteer at nursing homes and loved getting to know the residents. I greatly enjoyed providing moments of happiness during their day. I want to continue doing those little things as a nurse.” Maddie will graduate with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May 2021.