After receiving a dire diagnosis, City of Hope nurse, TED Talk speaker and author Christine Magnus Moore, shares her experience on being on both sides of the bedside.
BY: Sara Smola
Christine Magnus Moore RN, BSN, BMTCN, a nurse coordinator in City of Hope’s Department of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, knew she wanted to help others after receiving compassion from a nurse after her father was in a car accident.
“I was debating what I wanted to do after high school and my dad was involved in a head on collision. My family, we could see him for 15 minutes every four hours in the ICU, and so I walked in and I saw him—he was connected to every machine you could think of. The doctor said he most likely wouldn’t make it. I was in the room with the nurse and she was young, really sweet and caring to me. [She] took me and showed me what was going on with him. [She made it] less overwhelming and [showed] so much kindness and compassion. That really impressed me. My path was solidified from that moment,” explains Moore.
Moore stumbled upon the field of oncology during her nursing training, though initially reluctant, she quickly realized it was an emotional and humbling experience, rather than her initial reaction of it being a depressing one.
“At first, I thought I wouldn’t like oncology, I thought ‘Oh gosh, how scary,’” admits Moore. “But I found that there was just such a beautiful depth about [the patients]. They just amazed me with their strength. That set the course of me in oncology.”
From oncology, Moore diversified her career, eventually landing a position as an emergency room nurse where tragedy struck. “I was an emergency room nurse,” Moore begins, “and one day I was in the shower and I noticed a golf ball sized lump in my left groin. I was in my thirties, it didn’t hurt, it wasn’t painful. I was having other symptoms too, but I was in denial. I was in my thirties. I was so active—I was doing spin classes, I did a bike race in Mexico, I was traveling, hanging out with friends, you know, just living a fun life. So, I saw the lump and I was having some night sweats and fatigue, but I was working two jobs at the time and so I just thought, ‘Oh, you’re working too hard’—you just rationalize things. And then the lump appeared.”
At her doctor’s suggestion, Moore saw a surgeon (who happened to be a colleague of Moore’s) who biopsied the lump. When Moore woke up, the surgeon delivered the shattering news. “He looked me deep in the eyes and told me that I had non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” Moore recalls. “I just burst into tears. I was completely devastated. That was my introduction on being on both sides of the bedside and knowing what the life of a cancer patient is because I was living it.”
Moore went on to seek treatment—enduring seven months of chemotherapy that made her sick and bedridden for days afterward. To add insult to injury, not only did she lose her hair, but her job as an emergency room nurse. As a result of Moore’s diagnosis and subsequent treatments, she was placed on disability, unable to work. When her disability time period was up, she found herself unemployed and due to the loss of income, lost her condo as well. According to Moore, cancer patients losing their lifestyle is something most people seldom think about or realize.
Having experienced the “patient side,” Moore wanted to share her experience with others. Moore speaks on her experiences as both patient and medical professional in her award-winning book, aptly titled “Both Sides of the Bedside” (available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble online and Nook) and in her TED Talk, “From Tragedy to Triumph.” “It is a dramatic roller coaster ride,” says Moore of receiving her diagnosis and going through fatiguing treatments.
“I knew when going through my own treatment that I was called to write a book because I knew that if I can pave the way for others in understanding what I didn’t know patients go through or just give off a comfort to people going through it in that they’re not alone, then that’s what I’m called to do and that’s one of the reasons why I wrote my book.” Moore wrote “Both Sides of the Bedside” for anyone to benefit from—from cancer patients to family and friends of those suffering searching for insight to simply those seeking a good read.
While there is no justification for Moore’s suffering, there is no doubt that she has changed the lives of many by sharing her story. “I’ve reached my 15 mark of survivorship this year and for me to get to this point, I’ve had to live the path of the tragedy. I had to live and feel that but it made me stronger. I didn’t always feel strong and my mind wasn’t always in the right place. I struggled a lot,” admits Moore. “You will read it throughout my book. But, what I captured from those times is sometimes you can get by inch by inch, minute by minute, hour by hour and sometimes you know, it’s longer but it’s okay if it’s sometimes minute by minute. You just get through. I didn’t really understand those words until going through cancer.”