Carol Daley was a nurse working with children with cancer years ago, now she battles breast cancer herself while boosting others’ spirits through her art.
Carol Daley spent 46 years working as a registered nurse in the biggest hospitals in Boston.
In her early days, she cared for children who were dying of cancer on the Jimmy Fund floor at Children’s Hospital, working as head nurse alongside Dr. Sidney Farber, for whom the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was later named.
Her own health was always good, but in February, after a routine mammogram, Daley, 68, of Stoughton, received the news all women dread: A small cancerous lesion was found in her breast.
When she was diagnosed, being able to draw on her background in medicine was a mixed blessing. She knew both sides of the battle against cancer: as an oncology nurse and now as a patient.
“My knowledge helped me with the positive side of it,” said Daley. “I do know that there’s so much working to the benefit of the patient now, where in my day (as a nurse), there wasn’t. And I understood the (medical) lingo.
“But it’s also very hard for a nurse to be on the other side of the treatment table, that’s for sure,” she said.
Nationally, breast cancer claims the lives of thousands of women each year - and hundreds of men as well.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be 192,370 new cases of breast cancer in women in 2009, and 1,910 new cases in men.
In 2009, the institute projects that 40,170 women will die of breast cancer, and 440 men.
Daley received treatment at the new Radiation Oncology Center at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, which opened last December.
She had thought of turning to a Boston hospital for her medical care since she had worked at those institutions. But, at the suggestion of her doctor, she went with Good Samaritan’s treatment center and was glad she did.
It was convenient and she was impressed by the doctors, staff and atmosphere at the Good Sam facility. Her brother Brian transported her from their home in Stoughton during her six and a half weeks of radiation treatment.
“If I chose to say locally and felt very comfortable staying locally, the general public should feel confident to be treated in this facility,” said Daley. “It’s more convenient and you’re also getting individual care. You’re not one out of 1,000.”
Daley ended up boosting the spirits of others battling cancer through her artistic interests.
When she began radiation just before Memorial Day, Daley was struck by the beauty of the flowers coming up in the new green spaces around the Radiation Oncology Center. A lifelong gardener, she recognized them as Iceland poppies and admired their colors of pink, red and apricot.
A contractor had included the poppies in the hydro-seeding of the parking lot areas late last year. Hundreds bloomed in the spring.
“Every day when the sun was out, which wasn’t often, it was such a brightening thing,” Daley said.
She took photographs of the flowers, mounted them on card stock and presented them as thank-you gifts to employees at the center’s reception desk.
Her ability to find beauty in her surroundings touched many at the hospital.
“Everyone loved her cards,” said Eric Wojcik, director of oncology. “After getting to know her, we learned that Carol has a history of making a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Good Samaritan is reproducing four of Daley’s cards and will sell them in the hospital gift shop beginning in October. All proceeds will benefit cancer patients with needs such as transportation.
Daley also began making greeting cards from her own photographs so she could include them in the care packages that she regularly sends to women - the daughters, nieces and friends of friends - serving overseas in the military.
She includes photos from her travels as well as simple images she thinks the women might be missing: A field of sunflowers, a big bowl of fresh strawberries.
Dr. Farber taught her the importance of treating not just cancer, she said, but the patient and his or her whole family as well.
“This group (at Good Samaritan) is one of the most caring groups of people I have ever met,” said Daley. “They take care of the patient, not just the tumor. When you can have confidence in the people who are treating you, it is everything.”
Vicki-Ann Downing can be reached at email@example.com.