Cindy Barrett

Barrie nurses care for one of own at RVH

Cindy Barrett, left, with friend and coworker Mary Ellen Love
We see young women here with kids — we have 20-year-olds in our caseload — and I have a lot more empathy for people who are going through it. They really are brave.

Cindy Barrett knows what it’s like on the other end of the stethoscope. A nurse for 37 years, she is undergoing her second battle with breast cancer.

Barrett works at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s oncology unit, helping breast cancer patients.

She was diagnosed with cancer in October, in the same breast from which she had a tumour removed 21 years ago.

This time around, Barrett has had chemotherapy, surgery and will undergo five weeks of radiation. She admits she hasn’t been the best patient. “I’m the caregiver, not the care receiver,” she said.

Though she is well-informed about treatment and its side effects, Barrett said she somehow believed she wouldn’t get ill. But fatigue has hit her hard. “I absolutely have sympathy for the nastier side effects. It’s given me a different perspective,” she said. “You’re so tired, you can’t even lift your arm.”

Teaching patients about cancer treatment, Bennett has encouraged them to ask for help and sleep when they can. “Now I know it’s not enough. We see young women here with kids — we have 20-year-olds in our caseload — and I have a lot more empathy for people who are going through it. They really are brave.”

Like other patients, Barrett worried about losing her hair as the result of chemotherapy treatment. A single mom, she applied for a hair prosthesis, but wasn’t sure how much would be covered. She had picked out a “sassy” red wig, but waited before making a purchase. At her second chemotherapy treatment, the wig she had chosen was sitting on the bed. “I was completely baffled,” she said.

The nurse on duty — her friend, Mary Ellen Love — kept a straight face and said she didn’t know who put it there. “I went to the wig place and asked who did it. It was a $1,000 wig and finally got it out of them that it was Mary Ellen,” Bennett said. The memory still brings tears to her eyes. She’s also thankful for the kindness of the other members of the nursing staff.

Today is Oncology Nursing Day and, in the past, it hasn’t meant too much to Bennett. “This time, I look at my co-workers and know we care about our patients and we care about each other. I can respect them more as part of my team.”

In the Barrie Advance, By Janis Ramsay - For the full article, please click here.