The power to share. The power to inspire. The power to make a difference. Join our Nursing CAP and PIN Challenge.
Read Karleen's Story of Nursing and the vision to make a difference while battling metastatic breast cancer to the brain.
Maybe it was the little “health center” my mother created for my sister and I when at the age of 4, dressed in a homemade nursing outfit, I cared for my dolls – protecting them, speaking soothingly to them, bathing them to make sure they were comfortable. Maybe it was my need to become a “candy striper” at the local community hospital during the summer months while other kids my age were just enjoying summer vacation. Or, maybe it was my first job as a nursing assistant in high school when I worked in every area of our community hospital: emergency room, intensive care unit, medical surgical unit and psychiatric ward. I soaked up every experience and loved absorbing all there was to learn. But somewhere along the way, I discovered I had a passion: I wanted to be a nurse.
Working in the hospital always gave me a sense of accomplishment. But it was the stories of those I cared for that really hooked me in to what it meant to be a nurse. My patients – typically scared and overwhelmed – were always so grateful for anything I did to ease their suffering. They would ask, "Why me?" , they would ask ". What can I expect? Am I dying? Will my family member get here in time?". They knew, and I knew these were not questions that had answers. But I never left them alone, I held their hand, listened and just sat by their side to be present with them. I loved every minute of those intimate moments. It fueled my passion for nursing and the work I wanted to do. I was honored that patients trusted me and allowed me to “come along with them” in their health journey.
Over the course of my career what I found most exciting was the variety of things one could do as a nurse. I embraced everything I ever did.
Now, with terminal cancer to the brain and unknown amount of time left, I know more than ever what it is like to be the one asking those questions that have no answers, to rely on my friends and family in ways I never had to before, to be comforted by my nurse colleagues through our collective tears. Yes, I am scared, but I am not alone. I have an amazing family, friends and incredible colleagues. And I realize that as I face the inevitable, I still have so much passion for the profession I chose. We do not know how much time remains for me, but I have a plan. And a plea. So, here it goes.
All nurses have stories. I am creating a “story board” and I’m calling it the “Cap and Pin Challenge”. I invite you to please tell your story and challenge your colleagues to tell theirs:
1. Are you a NURSE who received a pin or cap? Do you have a picture and story to share? We would love to hear it! Please remember if you share your story to respect the confidentiality of patients/families.
2. Are you a PATIENT who has a wonderful story to tell about an oncology nurse? Is there an Oncology Nurse or Research Coordinator that made a difference in your care?
3. Are you a PHYSICIAN who can tell your story of an oncology nurse and the impact that research has had on your practice?
4. Are you a SOCIAL WORKER, PHYSICAL THERAPIST, OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST, MEDICAL ASSISTANT, PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT, RADIOLOGY TECHNICIAN, SCHEDULER, NUTRITIONIST, HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER, GREETER, HOUSE KEEPING, LAB TECHNICIAN, PHLEBOTOMIST, ECG TECHNICIAN, GENETIC COUNSELOR? The list goes on. Please chime in and tell your stories, as it adds to the collective collaborative spirit that is the fabric of our professional lives.
My dream is to establish research funding to support oncology nursing research. Nurses make a difference in the lives of patients every day. Their research is about the human experience and response to illness. Cancer, whether curable or not, poses many challenges and is life changing for all those touched by it. Nurses walk the walk with patients and their loved ones along this journey. With their patients, they celebrate, cry and laugh. These are the stories that do not always (and ought to) get told.
Will you help me realize my dream? I ask that you tell your story as a way to raise awareness about the work of nurses and by doing so we may fund research, conducted by nurses, that seeks to improve a patient's care-experience.
Please put a smile on the face of this passionate nurse as I brave the most challenging battle of my life! I want to hear someone whispering in my ear that the social media waves are being overwhelmed by your stories and donations. Remember, no donation is too small. Every single dollar is an opportunity for nurses to collaborate on cancer research and improve the lives of our patients and their families.
The goal of the Cap and Pin challenge is to establish Collaborative Oncology Nursing Research Endowment under the Cancer Resource Foundation, Inc., that Karleen Founded in 2009. This endowment will live on to provide Oncology Research Nursing Grants for the following organizations:
1. The Yvonne Munn Center for Nursing Research - Massachusetts General Hospital
2. Phyllis F. Cantor Center for Research in Nursing and Patient Care Services – Dana Farber Cancer Center
Too, your stories (on Facebook/Twitter) will serve as a living “story board” for all of us and I hope will provide each of you with a renewed sense of purpose and value.
Karleen Habin, MSN, RN is a 1982 graduate of the Burbank Hospital School of Nursing and the former Deaconess College of Nursing, now Chamberlain University. After graduating from Burbank, she worked at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester and since 2001, she has worked at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, Oncology Research Program.
She married the love of her life, Eugene Habin., and together they raised two incredibly beautiful children, Jessica and Brandon. Karleen and Gene are proud grandparents of three grandchildren. Jessica is a nurse educator/clinical specialist, and Brandon is an aeronautic engineer.
In 1991, when she was 30, Karleen was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, she has overcome many odds, but recently was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that has spread to her brain.
Karleen’s contributions to oncology nursing are many. They include mentoring countless nurses; establishing the first-ever statewide cancer guide: Breast Cancer Resource Guide of Massachusetts; and creating a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation, the Cancer Resource Foundation, Inc., www.cancer1source.org aimed at providing services, education, and support programs and resources for cancer patients nationwide. In addition, Karleen has published many articles, contributing to nursing science specifically surrounding clinical research, genetics and cancer symptom management. And in 2009, she was honored by the American Cancer Society, whose national board of directors presented her with the Lane W. Adams Quality of Life award, a prestigious national prize that recognizes an individual’s leadership, excellence and compassionate care.