Featured Friday – Nurse Cassey’s Storyby Featured Friday | 1 year ago
My name is Cassandra Menez (Cassey, for short) and I am 24 years old from Orange County, California. I wanted to share with you my story, the challenges that I faced, and how I used those challenges to become who I am today.
I recently graduated from nursing school at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, California and now I am a licensed Registered Nurse! 🙂
Many people ask me why I chose to become a nurse and I always tell them two words: my sister.
My sister is the reason why I chose nursing from the very beginning. Yet, behind those two simple words, unravels a very complicated and difficult journey. It is a journey where I decided to take all of the messy, ugly, mysterious, and beautiful parts of my life and turn into who I am today.
The story goes like this.
August 15, 2001 – God blessed me with a sister when I was 8 years old. I was so incredibly happy to finally have a baby sister (I have two brothers :P). She was such a sweet, innocent, and pure little baby, naive to what was happening in the world around her. Yet, weren’t we all…?
My family and I never expected or imagined for her to be in a battle between life and death just 14 months later. Unfortunately, Chelsea was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy (a fatal heart disease) and needed a heart transplant STAT to save her life.
Immediately, our worlds turned upside down. The hospital became our second home. My every day encounters were nurses and doctors, baby cries, weeping families, IV poles, medication, catheters, and the endless beeping in that small and constricted hospital room.
Although I was only 9 years old, I was confused, horrified, sad, and just flat out scared. Being in this situation, along with my brothers, I was forced to grow up fast.
I learned to hope. believe. and pray. hard.
I watched every move of every person that entered that hospital room, and I was so fascinated. I had hope in these nurses and doctors. I believed in these nurses and doctors. And I prayed to God that these nurses and doctors would help my little sissy get better.
October 8, 2002 – Chelsea received a heart.
One of the happiest days of our lives! Sometimes life has to have bad days for people to have happy days, and sometimes life has to be hard for you to be strong. And that’s what I had to do. I took this difficult time in our lives and made it into something amazing.
Seeing this miracle right in front of my eyes has helped me see life in a new way. A life that I am blessed to have, and a gift that I never want to take for granted. God did that for me. Chelsea did that for me. And I knew from then on, I wanted to give back. I wanted to help people. I wanted to be a nurse.
I know what you’re thinking. I was only 9 years old. Like many kids, I was indecisive. I wanted to be a doctor, actress, and a famous singer. Heck, my little brother, Kyle wanted to be a candy man. Dream big, right? But this wasn’t a phase.
Nurses are so much more than what they appear to be. They’re the ones who are at the beds bedside during the toughest AND happiest times of your life. They were there for Chelsea. They were there for my family. They were there for me.
Ever since then, Chelsea grew up as healthy as can be. Besides the endless hospital visits, check-ups, EKG, echo, lab tests, etc… she was able to live a normal life. Shopping trips. School. Hang-outs with friends. And best of all, hanging with our pup, Snowy Snowy. I had the opportunity to not only witness it all, but actually be there. My family and I learned how to balance her health and life, and give her everything she deserved. Through this, I learned a lot, and became accustomed to the medical field at only 9 years old. I helped her, took care of her, and protected her. I grew up taking her to her doctors appointments when my parents had to work. I looked up her symptoms and assessed her when she wasn’t feeling well. I gave her medication shots and checked her vitals. I was, in essence, her nurse, and I already knew that this is what God made me to be.
Aside from Chelsea being my reason, she is also much more than that. We are everything sisters should be, and more. She is my best friend, and I am hers. We grew up inseparable and did literally everything together. At the time, it didn’t seem fair that I had to stay at home and babysit, while all my friends were out and about. Come to look at it now, I honestly don’t regret any of it, one bit. She was my fake patient when I needed to practice nursing skills in nursing school, my dance-like-nobody-is-watching buddy till 2 am, my secret keeper, roommate, food adventure buddy, fashion police, makeup guru, biggest fan, and the best hugger ever!
We were the type of sisters you would see on TV, like on the show, Full House, ending each day on the edge of our beds sharing life lessons and advice. She thought I was the one teaching her about life, but in reality, she was teaching me. She taught me how to be compassionate, responsible, and how to nurture and love unconditionally. Essentially, she taught me all the qualities any nurse should have.
She is my solace, happiness, and angel…nothing could change that. Nothing.
September 2015 – Chelsea was diagnosed with cancer at 14 years old. Once again, our lives turned upside down, in a blink of an eye.
We moved an hour away from home to stay next to the hospital she was treated at. It was difficult, to say the least. During this time, I was in nursing school, and it was not easy balancing the two hour commute, endless studying, and most importantly, being there for Chelsea. But somehow, we did it. I knew no matter how hard I had it, Chelsea had it worse.
But once again, another miracle happened. Chelsea beat cancer. She was strong, fearless, and a fighter. We were so incredibly proud of her and ready to return back to our normal lives. Until…
March 2016 – a few months later, her lymphoma came back again, but with a vengeance. This time, she lost all of her hair. She wouldn’t eat. She got fevers every day. Infection after infection, headaches, and an unbearable amount of pain. Just as life works in mysterious ways, our lives somehow came back full circle. I was checking her vitals again, giving her shots, and fearfully chopping off the last hairs remaining on her precious little head, hiding any fear with a smile. Just as before, my family and I were back in the hospital, our second home.
To be honest, it’s difficult to describe what exactly happened during those few months. It was a roller coaster ride because so much happened every single day.
Good memories. Bad memories. Regardless, Chelsea knew how to take the bad with the good. With what was the worst experience we ever encountered, she knew how to make the most of it. Like, for example, on the day the doctor told us the tumor was growing in her stomach, but then the next day she was all smiles when her favorite youtuber surprised her in the hospital! Or the times she wanted to go home so badly, but instead, we brought “home” to her and all spent the night on a tiny bed in her hospital room. Basically, we laughed, cried, and laughed some more. We created endless memories that will forever stay in my heart. It was quite the journey, but it felt as if I was the 9-year-old me, all over again.
I continued to hope. believe. and pray. hard. perpetually. I wish I could tell you the happy ending I wish had happened. Unfortunately, I can’t. God had a different plan, and like my older brother, Russell says, “I don’t question God because I know he’s the answer.”
August 2, 2016 – The worst and hardest day of my life. I will never stop mourning the loss of my sister, and I will never stop missing her. But somehow, like everything else that happened, I had a choice to turn the negative parts of my life around. And I say this with the sincerest heart, her death was the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. Ironic, right? All of her family, friends, nurses, and doctors gathered around her bedside, telling her how much we love her. It was peaceful. It was calm. It was miraculous. We felt God’s presence that day. And although her body is dead, her spirit is very much alive. She is now living happily in everlasting life, and to me, she KILLED cancer.
She beat it through her smiles, laugh, silliness, and extreme sassiness. She beat it through her positivity, kindness, energy, and unquestionable faith in God. She was a trooper – handled cancer like a badass, and displayed resilience until the very end. She set an example for us all.
I’ll never forget that moment. We honored her life, and continue to honor her. Nurses may not always create a happy ending, but they have the opportunity to celebrate and honor the lives of people…and that’s what they did. The nurses joined us in honoring Chelsea’s life. They made Chelsea laugh when she didn’t want to laugh, and smile when it was too hard to smile. Because of them, she was able to live the last few months with quality of life, and preservation of dignity.
Chelsea continues to live on through all of us, and I believe that Chelsea’s legacy continues to live on through me. I do this for the nurses who helped us along the way. I do this for all the other children and families who are, or will be in the same position we once were in. I do this for Chelsea.
I could honestly give up here. Trust me, I’ve thought about it. Chelsea passed away right before the last semester of nursing school. I was about to take a leave of absence, drop out, and just run away from life. Losing someone so dear to you is the absolute worst feeling in the world. Feelings of defeat and loss try to take over me. Yet, somehow, I chose to look at the bigger picture. I choose to see life in the midst of death. I choose to look at my sister. I choose to honor her. I choose to take the messy, ugly, mysterious, and beautiful parts of my life, and turn it into who I am today. Hence, why my sister, Chelsea, is the reason I continue to chose nursing for the rest of my life.
As a nurse, I have vowed to carry Chelsea with me on my sleeve, and in my heart. She will be there for me through every encounter with every patient, happy or sad, regardless of any emotions his or her journey brings.
So there you have it. My inspiration, my passion, and my strength to move on and be who I am every single day. I can only hope that others can somehow also find that person or thing that encourages them to get up every morning. Whatever journey they may be on, I pray that they are able to see the light in any darkness. That they use the darkest and hardest parts of your life, and turn it into something brighter. Everyone says the sayings, “life is short” or “live life to the fullest” and as cliche as that sounds, it’s true.
Through everything that happened, I can’t go one day without looking up at the man above and voicing how incredibly thankful I am to see, feel, hear, smell, taste, touch, talk, walk, and just breathe. These are the little things that some people in the hospital struggle to do. And as long as I’m living, I will devote myself as a nurse to help those do even just that.
I will forever miss my sister, but I believe that God put me on this journey to be who I am and to help the little children in the hospital while they are on their journeys.
Thank you so so much for reading my story! I would love to have it shared, to help inspire those who are going through tough times and need some inspiration! Thank you for all that you do.
In honor of Chelsea Mari Menez, 08/15/01 – 08/02/16.
My Nursing Blog | nursecassey.tumblr.com