Written by: Kylie WestonWeston_Kylie

This summer I had the honor of working at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston as a professional student nurse extern.  I was assigned to the Stem Cell Transplant unit and spent 10 weeks working side by side with various nurses getting to do hands-on skills and build confidence in my nursing practice.  My expectation was that I would gain some confidence in my skills, and potentially learn some new skills as well.  What I thought was going to just be some extra practice before graduation, was an experience that truly changed my life.  Not only did it allow me to improve my nursing skills, critical thinking and give me more preparation before being thrust into the field after graduation, it also changed my whole perspective and outlook on life.  I imagined oncology would be an extremely depressing and difficult specialty to work in, and I wasn’t sure if I could really handle it. While there were definitely hard days, and my emotions were often pushed to their limits, I was also able to meet some of the strongest and most driven and determined people in this world.  Stem Cell Transplant is usually more of a last resort option for patients, when other treatments have failed to work.  Even with this in mind, so many of them were just eager to keep fighting and doing everything they could to get healthy and be able to go home with their families.  Don’t get me wrong; every patient had his or her own struggles.  That sort of thing has to be expected when you’re completely wiping out someone’s immune system and attempting to regrow healthy cells.  Even on their sickest days though, they did not lose hope.  They reminded me what a precious gift life is, and taught me how to live it to the very fullest and take the time to appreciate the world and people around us.  There is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that reads “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  I believe that this is the best way to describe the impact that my summer at MD Anderson had on me.  Not only did my experience make me a better nurse, I believe it made me a better person. The memories I made, people I met and lessons I learned, will stay with me forever.