By UConn Health, Center on Aging
Susan, a former Emergency Room nurse at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, found herself on the other side of the healthcare system after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
“Although I shared compassion with patients as a nurse, it is humbling to find yourself a patient. It’s tough to be on the other side. It lead me to a deeper spirituality and I’ve learned to be more patient.”
She became 'so sick' from the chemotherapy that her deconditioned body needed 24/7 care and she was admitted to a skilled nursing facility. For eleven months she spent up to three hours a day working with physical therapists in the rehabilitation gym determined to get stronger. Susan also helped others through the Bible study group there.
Her deeply held faith in God stems from her upbringing in Massachusetts where both parents were leaders in the church as youth and adult lay music ministers. Throughout her young life, she also attended two weekly services. Susan continues to use prayer, creative writing, gardening and painting as pathways to help her heal.
As Susan was gaining her strength, a housing coordinator from Money Follows the Person (MFP) introduced her to how this program could help her transition back to her town with supports.
“I was so incredibly blessed when MFP identified themselves and their plans to transition me from the skilled nursing facility back into the community and find me an apartment. I did not know what to expect. I was afraid I may not be able to see the end, given my diagnosis.” In just 4 short months Susan’s MFP transition team had found her a beautiful apartment close to her fiancé Rich, whom she met while living at Green Grove, a residential care home nearby. Another key person has been the care manager at Advanced Behavioral Health, coordinating Susan’s care plan. Susan credits her recovery assistant (RA) from Compassion N Care as being a dynamic and important team member. From the moment Susan met her RA, they “just clicked” and have been close companions ever since. Her RA knows Susan so well that she recognized that something was not right one day and convinced her to go the ER. She continues to be so instrumental in helping Susan with anything she needs. She goes beyond helping with daily tasks, driving and filing important paperwork, but also getting much needed hearing aids and oral chemo medication. Searching out grants with community organizations, she motivated Susan to write an essay with a non-profit in New Haven at the 11th hour, and Susan was awarded $350.00 to order new art supplies.
Susan and Rich have recently been reunited and they start each day baking and praying together. Susan shares that the “apex of our relationship is God, with friends and family in the middle.” Rich is an incredible baker and as he gives Susan her morning medications, she engages her sense of smell to guess what he has baked that morning. Fellowship and faith are also shared with several different health and spiritual wellness ministries they either host or attend every week. Susan not only has been the recipient of gracious donations, but gives back, sharing piles of books on spirituality with Smilow cancer center.
Susan’s healing gifts extend to her plants, whom she counts as her “babies.” They represent life to her. Friends bring her their neglected plants and they thrive with her nurturing. “MFP was the answer to all my prayers. MFP stayed with me the whole time. I was so overwhelmed with what MFP provided me!” Susan’s life philosophy has changed tremendously from her days working in the ER. She now lives simply so others may simply live.