abby responds to breast cancer awareness question.

When “The Studio” conducts interviews for its (un)scripted series, the question we sign off with is the same every time – “if you could ask us anything, what would it be?” and it’s no surprise that these wildly talented individuals always present thoughtful responses.

Most recently, Amy Burke Friedman owner/CEO of PROFILES really inspired meaningful reflection with the question she asked, which is:

“In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), I’d like to ask you a personal question. Many of us have been touched by the experiences of friends or family members with breast cancer. Is there a particular woman in your life who has inspired you with her strength and resilience in the face of this challenge? I’d love to hear a little about her story and how it may have impacted your perspective.”

This question resonates with me in a big way because after carefully ruminating over it, I realized that I actually haven’t lived one day of my life without breast cancer being present. This is because my incredible, selfless, kind and ferociously inspiring mother is an oncology nurse and spends her time at work with patients, their friends, families, and her colleagues who are all facing the challenges that come with cancer in one way or another.

So, the short answer is that the particular woman in my life who has inspired me with their strength and resilience in the face of the challenges that accompany breast cancer, is very much my mother.

I will note that I have been impacted by the journeys of others close to me that have been faced with this terrible diagnosis and each is just as important as the other, but in the spirit of responding to Amy’s question, my lens is focused mostly on the powerful work that my mom does. From the time she clocks in each day, until the time she leaves – often much later than expected – she is dedicated to making sure her patients are looked after wholly and with genuine care. In her current role, she happens to oversee other nurses and takes the time to make sure they are also looking after cancer patients in her unit both thoughtfully and with kindness.

With that, the personal perspective that I can offer is one that actually resonates in all aspects of my life and a mantra I work very hard to try and remain loyal to always – Treat others how you want to be treated. If there is anything that having parents, a brother and a sister-in-law with immense compassion has taught me over and over again, it’s that none of us has any idea of what others are going through at any given time.

As an oncology nurse, my mom maintains that mantra with all that she faces, giving her time and energy to countless women, men and children battling cancer, breast or otherwise. And while I’ve not been a patient of hers myself, I do know that what she does matters and I gain perspective from that all of the time.

In fact, very recently, my mom was recognized with a Daisy Foundation Award after being nominated by one of her patients. If you’re not familiar with what this means, this award is an internationally celebrated honor for nurses that go above and beyond, to treat others the way they’d like to be treated.

That said, nurses can be nominated by anyone – patients, family members, other nurses, physicians, clinicians, or staff – who experience or observe extraordinarily compassionate care being provided by a nurse.

The nominations are blinded and sent to an internal committee at the participating organization – in this case the Rex Cancer Center Infusion Floor. The committee reads and scores the nominations using criteria that focus on compassion and fit the mission and values of each organization that it partners with. Honorees are selected throughout the year to provide continuous celebration of extraordinary nurses.

When she learned that she was being regarded with this award, the nomination from her patient was also shared. It reads:

“First of all, please excuse this typed submission but my handwriting is awful. I would like to nominate Jana Draper for the Daisy Award. Jana is one of the head nurses on the Rex Cancer Center Infusion floor. What immediately comes to mind when thinking of Jana is her gentle touch. Whenever she goes to check on a patient or listen to something they might need, she lays a very gentle hand on them (like an ankle or wrist) that is immediately soothing and literally “makes it all better”. It makes her patients feel like they are the only patient in the world and confirms that she is listening 100 percent to them. Jana is obviously in charge of the unit yet when she is there the other nurses feel extremely comfortable in asking for her help or coverage if they are busy or in need of assistance in a situation. Her leadership makes sure that each and every nurse is available to each other. It is amazing to watch all of the nurses on the infusion floor work together in a seamless fashion. Jana is the first to remember a name of a family member or a story you shared with her 4 treatments ago! On my first day of infusion which was going to start 28 long weeks of chemo and immunotherapy, I met Jana and immediately felt like “I can do this” thanks to her comforting words of encouragement. I have come to know her over the last 15 months of my treatment and have enjoyed watching her have the same effect on so many other as I see her work her magic. While I could nominate each of the nurses that has treated me over the span of my treatment at Rex, I would like to acknowledge Jana for this award, especially knowing she would be the first to give the credit to her coworkers!”

All of that to be said, I’ve been given an intimate and unique insight into a disease that has an effect on so many, in various ways, so my perspective relies on my personal history and my mom’s ongoing commitment to treating others how she’d like to be treated.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is honored all month long. The Studio (and the Draper family!) encourage you to do what you can to support. We would also love for you to answer Amy’s question as well, if you’re comfortable. Feel free to email any time.

Additionally, Go Jen Go is another organization with a powerful program to aid those facing the financial burdens of a breast cancer diagnosis and as Charlotte locals, we encourage you to donate to them as well.


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