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Grateful for Nurses this Thanksgiving Season

Publication: The McAllen Monitor (McAllen)

A good nurse is a super hero in disguise. Every day, they fight for their patients so they can fight cancer.

I should know. After more than two decades of fighting four cancer diagnoses, I can’t begin to fully express how thankful I am for the caring, compassionate support of my nurses. As we pause to reflect on life’s blessings today during our Thanksgiving festivities, please join me in adding nurses and healthcare teams — my super heroes — to the list of things for which to be thankful.

In December 1989 when I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer of the immune system. Texas Oncology–McAllen physician Dr. Billie Marek and his nurses administered a successful regimen of radiation, thus beginning my now 25-year relationship with them.

Through three additional cancer diagnoses, Dr. Marek and his nurses, America Cantu and Melanie Vella, and many others at Texas Oncology–McAllen, provided me strength, comfort and, at times, humor. They’ve traveled each step of my cancer journey with me. They are consummate professionals, but also now dear friends who have become like a second family.

During an office visit to administer chemotherapy in April 2007, I didn’t feel well and they sensed something was amiss. After further investigation, they found I needed a coronary artery double bypass surgery — a byproduct of the chemotherapy. It was another heroic rescue. Simply put: I wouldn’t be here without them.

And like all super heroes, they share several common traits.

  • They are easily identified. Healthcare teams are the ones helping their patients overcome obstacles, big and small.
  • They lead dual lives. Outside of the clinic, healthcare team members are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives and other peoples’ children. They have the same life stressors we all do. Somehow, they are adept at leaving their problems at the door and adopting their alter egos — putting it on like superhero’s cape. This enables them to focus on their patients. It is only when their work is done that they quietly slip back into their personal lives.
  • They give unselfishly. This trait is even more amazing when you consider much of the work is often thankless. Nurses stay late to ensure a patient’s nausea medication is working or use a smaller needle on very fragile veins to minimize pain. They give patients and families a shoulder to cry on, celebrate completion of treatment and provide encouragement at the moment it is needed most. They ask for very little in return.
  • They fight for the underdog. Battling a foe as formidable as cancer, typically involves treatments that leave patients weak and vulnerable. Healthcare teams are some of the strongest advocates a patient has and are always looking for a way to make life a little better.
  • They have a calling. Oncology nursing is not a profession for the faint of heart. People who enter healthcare fields do so because of a desire to help people. Many knew they wanted to be a nurse from a very early age and never considered another option.
  • They are indispensable. I challenge anyone to overcome any health challenge without a great nurse or healthcare team. Trust me, it is extremely difficult. In the fight against cancer, they are essential.

I am sure you’d find these attributes in nurses everywhere. For me, the Texas Oncology team is special because they provided me excellent cancer treatment, with a genuine, personal touch, right here in McAllen, which enabled me to stay close to additional, critical support from family and friends.

This Thanksgiving, I invite you to share your #SuperThanks and personal stories of your nurse super heroes at

Sandra Aguero is a Texas Oncology–McAllen patient.

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