After working in an oncology clinic for 25 years, Claudia Besco was diagnosed with breast cancer this spring. A routine mammogram spotted her cancer, forcing her to take 12 weeks off of work for chemotherapy and surgery, but then she went right back to work taking care of the kids in the clinic. She is still going through radiation therapy, but everything is going well and she has a positive outlook.

Now back at the Children’s Hospital where Besco and the rest of the Hematology/Oncology team see about 25 patients per day, Besco and her patients continue to inspire each other as they go through the same emotions and procedures. Besco says she’s had a wide range of reactions from her patients. One young girl walked into the room and asked “Where’s your hair?” and Besco simply explained, “I had treatment like you and my hair fell out.” The young girl was amazed that Besco was still working there, but she said it can happen to anybody and it doesn’t matter that she works in the cancer clinic.

Besco knows that oncology nursing is a job that can wear you down, but only if you allow it. She says she went through many of the same emotions as her young patients, but in the end her attitude was, “Why not me? I’m not different than anyone else. Anybody can get cancer. And just because I know a lot of kids with cancer, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get it. It’s just life.”

Taking an honest approach to her work, Besco says it’s sad that kids get cancer and that not everybody survives it, but she doesn’t dwell on that part of it, and says you can’t dwell on it if you’re going to work there. She chooses to look at the bright side, just as each of her patients do. Besco particularly enjoys her work with kids because she says they don’t dwell on sadness. Even when they have a bad day, it doesn’t last long before they get back to laughing and kidding around.

Besco also says there are still days when her job is heavy. Her kids are grown now, but when they were younger she says they always got an extra hug from her after heavy days in the clinic. And she says her patients and their families have become her friends and family. She has friends all over Nebraska and Iowa now that she’s helped take care and they become families because they spend so much time together while she’s helping them through the worst time of their life, something they’ll hopefully never have to go through again.

Nurse Claudia keeps a scrapbook of kind notes and pictures of support from her patients, which allows her to keep the big picture in perspective and see what’s important. For Claudia, the good days outnumber the bad ones, a million to one. She says the most important thing is to help other people, and she gets far more from her job than she gives.

We want to thank our Nurse of the Week, Claudia Besco, for the inspiring work she does, and send her well-wishes for the last few weeks of her own treatment.

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