I am the I in IWK — Meredith Tasiopoulos

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“As nurses working in oncology, we are privileged to become very close to the families we care for. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is devastating and affects every member of the family, says Meredith Tasiopoulos, family care coordinator, IWK Oncology/Hematology. “We feel the grief of a new diagnosis or relapse, we mourn when cancer takes a child’s life, and celebrate milestones like when our patients have encouraging evaluations or are cancer-free.”

April 6, 2021 is Oncology Nurses Day and Tasiopoulos has been working on the oncology team at IWK Health for six years after previous work in mental health and inpatient care. When a child or teenager is diagnosed with cancer at the IWK, they’re assigned a family care coordinator. Care coordinators are with patients and families from the very beginning, and support them along their entire cancer journey.

“The thing I love most about my oncology nurse colleagues is the diverse expertise that each individual brings to provide the best care to the patients and families,” Tasiopoulos says. “From the clinical care providers who administer chemo and supportive care, to the inpatient nurses who care for kids when they are often at their sickest, to the ones who specialize in bone marrow transplants, brain tumours, long-term follow-up and research; each nurse has something special to bring to the team.”

For many people, the word cancer has established associations with feelings of sadness, fear or even anger. It’s a disease that many people are, unfortunately, connected to. But in the devastation of a cancer diagnosis there can be moments of hope and learning, and those moments inspire Tasiopoulos daily.

“When people ask an oncology nurse what they do for a living, we often hear responses along the lines of ‘I could never do that’, or, ‘isn’t that so sad?’,” says Tasiopoulos. “But the truth is, I wish people could come live a day in our shoes and get to witness the resilience, joy and new perspective watching a child during their cancer journey brings. From scooting around the halls in toy cars, riding IV poles, or hearing little footsteps running, cancer does not define these kids. Our teenagers tackle their cancer head on, often more worried about missing school or their next sporting event. Our patients and their families learn not to sweat the small stuff and to love deeply — lessons we could all benefit from.”

Tuesday April 6, 2021 marks the 18th anniversary of Oncology Nursing Day. The 2021 theme is: I Am, I Will: A Call to Action. For more information visit cano-acio.ca/page/OND.