Tag Archives: cancer

Peace Amidst the Storm: Annie Welton Lyman and Davin Lyman’s Journey through Thyroid Cancer

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Annie Lyman and Davin Lyman are wonderful examples of strengthening your faith during trials; Photo provided by Annie Lyman

By Lyndee Johns

Last March, nursing student Annie Welton and pre-med student Davin Lyman had their world rocked by two words.

Thyroid cancer.

This wasn’t in the plan. They had only been engaged for two weeks. They had been told by the doctors that the tumor that they’d found in Davin’s thyroid was likely not malignant. A 10 percent chance of cancer.

“So finding out was really traumatic. You hear ‘cancer,’ and it’s just overwhelming and scary and so uncertain, and you just kind of feel like everything’s rocked,” says Annie Welton Lyman, now married to Davin Lyman. “But we just knew we had to go one step at a time, one day at a time.”

It’s been 11 months of “one day at a time.”

Davin’s thyroid had to be removed, along with 20 lymph nodes. This led to an ongoing battle for balance through hormone replacement therapy, weekly doctor’s visits, and medication.

But how have the couple gotten through it?

How have they found peace amidst the storm?

The Gospel

Annie credits the gospel for getting her husband and herself through this time.

“We were able to go to the temple every week, and just relying on the knowledge that what we were doing was right. We knew that our education was right. We knew that our marriage was right, like Heavenly Father had just given us that assurance, and continual assurance. And that’s what made it all— not only bearable, because it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t easy—but it was possible because of that,” says Annie.

Annie says that both her and her husband’s testimonies and their marriage have been strengthened through this ordeal. “It’s given us such beautiful hindsight and such beautiful realization of like, what that did for our marriage, what it did for our careers, what it did for our spirits and our souls and our family.”

The Scholarship

Annie also credits a scholarship given by the BYU College of Nursing for keeping them afloat.

In the midst of Davin’s bout with cancer, the Lymans were struggling to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills, while working and dealing with heavy course loads.

Annie went to the BYU College of Nursing to see if there were any type of scholarships available. Although it was outside of the typical scholarship period, the school was able to utilize the C Scott & Dorothy E Watkins Charitable Foundation Scholarship. “We’re both back to school, and thanks to the scholarship, we’re able to be in school and be practicing. But I don’t know, honestly, without the scholarship, what would have happened because neither of us can take on more work. And I think we would have been stuck,” says Annie.

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Annie Lyman says that her friends in the nursing program were a great support to her; Photo provided by Annie Lyman

Nursing Training

Annie’s time in the nursing program has been invaluable for providing a better understanding of the diagnosis and treatments. “Both of us are in medical professions,” Annie says. “And so I have been spending the past three years learning about the thyroid and the difference between the thyroid and the thymus and the hormones and all that, so it really helped decrease my fear because I had such a better knowledge of what they were saying. So at least when the doctor gave this diagnosis, I could understand ‘This is what that means,’ and understand the hormones and the balancing.”

The nursing program also helped empower Annie by giving her the tools to do her own research. “I just had different avenues that the nursing program taught me, so I was able to work with the doctor and to give my input and my suggestions and thoughts and stuff like that.”  

Empathy is Key

The Lymans’ months of one-on-one time with nurses and doctors have ensured that they have spent a lot of time with what Annie labels “the good examples” and “the bad examples” of nursing.

The vital difference between the two?

Empathy.

“We’ve had some bad examples with people not being empathetic or understanding, just treating it very objectively, which I understand has a time and a place,” Annie says, “But when you just tell someone they have cancer, it’s a fragile thing.”

However, even from the bad examples, Annie was able to learn an important lesson.

“And so that has taught me the importance of being empathetic and personable with every patient because even though to me . . . I may have treated someone with this condition hundreds of times, it’s still important to be empathetic. It’s their first time receiving this diagnosis.”

On the flip side, the “good examples” were the ones that were concerned for both Lymans. “I’ve learned the importance of taking care of not only the patient, but their caregivers and their family,” says Annie. “Because obviously I was not the one going through cancer, but I was just as worried. It was just as emotional. And so when they took the time to talk to me and care for me as well, it made a huge impact. And so it’s really just taught me that nursing is much more personal and every diagnosis is personal.

“And so empathy is important in every single patient and condition.”

Share the Burden

Annie encourages everyone going through a similar condition to share with friends or family members what has been going on.

“Don’t be afraid to let people in . . . Don’t be afraid to tell them about what you’ve been going through. Because I think sometimes we think we’ll feel like a burden, or we’ll feel like we’re trying to get attention, or it might make someone else uncomfortable if we tell them, but really that’s not the case.”

Annie says that sharing with others helped to quickly connect with them. “It helped them feel like they could share what they were going through, and I hope that our experience has helped others as well.”

In addition to friends and family, Annie says to share our burdens with one other vital person: the Savior.

“There were so many times where I had an assignment due, or we had bills to pay, or I was having a meltdown, and I just had to be like ‘Heavenly Father, I have to just give this portion over to you,’ or ‘I have to let go of this stress, I have to let go of this fear.’ And He let me just concentrate on one thing at a time . . . And I felt like He took most of the burden off.”

Storm Is Over

While the Lymans are still trying to navigate the winds of hormone treatments, the storm appears to have ended.

Though remission has yet to officially be declared, the doctors confirm that the cancer was removed with Davin’s thyroid.

“We’re still balancing and then we’ll still continually do biopsies to make sure that it’s still not there, but we’re pretty sure that it’s gone,” Annie says.

Taking everything that they’ve learned from this experience—the medical knowledge, the importance of empathy, the shedding of burdens, and the compassion of the Lord—the Lymans are learning how to help patients of their own in their respective medical fields.

Their ship may not be in the harbor yet, but they are looking towards the future.

Together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Jenna Lewis

By Corbin Smith

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Photo courtesy of Lewis

As we all know, nursing takes on many faces. Nursing is special because careers can range from a variety of fields. The BYU College of Nursing values all extracurricular activities and organizations and encourages students to participate in those opportunities so that students can be exposed to a wide collection of these fields. This past summer, 4th semester student Jenna Lewis found herself involved with a relatively unknown organization among students called Camp Kesem.

Camp Kesem is an annual summer camp, driven by college students, to support youth whose parents currently deal with or have dealt with cancer. Camp Kesem had its beginnings in 2001 at Stanford University and has since expanded to over 100 chapters across the US, including one here in Utah Valley! Understanding the financial burdens taken by families whose parents are cancer patients, Camp Kesem and its volunteers fundraise year-round so camp can be free for the families each year.

During camp, the children participate in an array of activities and games, completely led by college students. The student volunteers, including Lewis, are assigned a specific age group of children, whom they assist both physically and emotionally during the week. All is done with the purpose of helping the children forget the hardships going on in their families through the companionship and empathy of the volunteers.

How Kesem Found Her

Lewis’ life-changing journey to Kesem started last year on an ordinary Wednesday night. Her roommate had been attending weekly meetings for a camp that Lewis had never heard of. That day, her roommate invited her to go with her to a meeting. Lewis reluctantly accepted her invitation to go, not ready to commit to camp because she knew how time consuming it would be.

When she arrived, the meeting was nothing like she expected it to be. “When I got there we talked about service and love, played games and sang camp songs and watched a powerful video. That is when I knew this was a special place,” says Lewis. That night, Camp Kesem found its way into her heart.

Camp!

After months of preparation and fundraising, camp finally arrived. The week’s activities included swimming, a water fight with over a thousand water balloons and even a camp-wide paint war!

Nevertheless, Lewis says the best part of camp was getting to know the campers. “They just change you,” says Lewis, “They soften your heart. They teach you about empathy and loving people unconditionally.” Their influence and example changed her perspective on nursing as well as her heart.

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She had one experience that epitomized the change she felt at Camp Kesem. One afternoon of camp a group of 6 and 7 year-old campers were running around, jumping from bench to bench trying to avoid touching the ground. One little boy slipped, fell down and scraped his knee. At the sight of a tear, without hesitation, Lewis jumped up and quickly calmed him down with a small bandage and pep talk. From that moment on, Lewis had created a strong friendship with this young camper, constantly being showered with hugs and smiles the rest of the week. “That experience helped me realize that when you are willing to help people in the way they need to be helped, they’ll open their hearts and you will see what they need.”

This lesson has continued to help Lewis as she continues in school and in her clinical rotations at the Huntsman Cancer Center. Camp Kesem helped her see first-hand the effect cancer has on families. That knowledge has helped her as she tries to serve patients in her clinicals. Her experience with Kesem gives her a perspective few of her peers possess. “Kesem has helped me understand a tiny part of their needs and worries,” says Lewis, “I even talk to some patients about Camp Kesem for their kids and it brings light to their eyes.”

Why Kesem?

Kesem’s ultimate purpose is to bring joy into the lives of the campers, but, in the end, it changes the lives of all those involved. Explaining why Kesem changed her life so dramatically she explains, “At Kesem you learn the value of being vulnerable and allowing others to be vulnerable with you. You learn to care about people other than yourself, and it’s contagious! It is incredible to go into a group of relative strangers and be loved selflessly.”

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Photo courtesy of Lewis

It is a unique opportunity to participate in a camp such as Camp Kesem. For Lewis, not only did it change her life as an individual, but it also transformed the way she thinks of nursing and how it can be applied. Without a doubt, Lewis returned from Kesem inspired and prepared for her next step in school and in life. “Until next summer,” she exclaims!

Student Spotlight: Lexy Rowberry

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Rowberry loves spending time with her family. Photo courtesy of Rowberry.

By Corbin Smith

Well, students. Here we are again. Another school year has kicked off with new opportunities to grow and serve. There will be late-night study sessions and last-minute cramming for tests, but you will also learn so many new things, as well as meeting new friends along the way. One of those new friends that you may meet as you walk the halls of the Kimball Tower this year is a 5th-semester student named Lexy Rowberry.

As a young girl, Rowberry never imagined that she would be studying nursing here at BYU. Her family is full of teachers so Rowberry, planning to follow in the footsteps of her family, had always imagined herself studying something like English or education. It was when her mom suggested nursing while she was applying for college that Rowberry first considered the idea of pursuing nursing at BYU.

Her road to becoming a nurse started long before that day, though.

When Rowberry was young, her father got a job in Australia which moved the entire family to a small town in the middle of Australia. “It was terrifying. I never did anything,” Rowberry says, laughing, of her experience. Being in a new place around new people was tough and forced Rowberry to see the world in a new way. “Living with different people got me outside myself. I saw that there was another way to live life!” she says. This realization was the start of Rowberry’s desire to serve and make life better for all people, no matter how. “I saw others and thought, I’d really like to do something in my life to help be a source for good,” she explains.

As she was growing up, Rowberry had another impactful experience that shifted her outlook on life. Not very many of us have to deal with the stress and uncertainty that comes with having someone with cancer in your family. Even those who do, usually aren’t faced with that at a young age. Nonetheless, that is exactly what Rowberry had to deal with as a young girl.

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Photo courtesy of Rowberry.

While in Australia, just as Rowberry’s dad was called as bishop of their ward, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. What would you do? How would you react? Many young people might close themselves off and blame others for the scary things that are happening. Rowberry did the exact opposite. “It was then when I really turned to my Heavenly Father. It changed me to really trust him and say, ‘Life is serious. I’ll do whatever you want me to do. It’s going to be okay’,” she says.

It was then when Rowberry started to become the smiley, upbeat and happy person that she is today. Her testimony of God and positive outlook on life has given her the ability to overcome the trials that have come into her life at every point in her life. “Being happy just makes everything so much better,” she explains, “Life is better when you’re happy.” Now, when you see Rowberry in the hall, you’re bound to see a smile that goes from ear to ear!

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Photo courtesy of Rowberry.

This positive attitude that Rowberry has developed has helped her be successful in each semester of the nursing program. Whether you are just starting your first semester or are reaching the end of your BYU career, here are three pieces of advice from Rowberry to have a great and rewarding semester this year:

  1. “Put your foot in a lot of places” – Try new things this semester! Join a new club, pick up a new hobby or read a new (non-textbook) book! Studying is grueling so try to forget about school every once in a while so you can relax!
  2. Enjoy learning – You are learning the Healer’s art! Enjoy the process of learning and making mistakes. Don’t worry too much at being perfect at everything at the start and do your best to slow things down and enjoy the process!
  3. Focus on why you’re there – Everyone has their own answer to the question “Why nursing?”. Make sure you remember your “why”! When school gets stressful it is hard to remember why, so write your “why” down where you will always see it and each time you sit in class or at your desk to study, keep that “why” in mind!

 

As Rowberry starts her senior year she is excited to continue learning and applying what she has learned in past semesters and in the clinical practicum for her Public and Global health nursing course last summer. Make sure, when you see her in the halls this year, to give her a smile and a high-five!

 

Melissa Heinonen: Applying the Healer’s Art

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By Corbin Smith

“I would learn the Healer’s art.”

One of the main goals of the BYU College of Nursing is to teach its students the Healer’s art. That includes caring for each of God’s children not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. The college hopes that each graduate will dedicate their life to that service as they move on to healthcare sites all over the world. Now, more than 10 years later, class of 2007 graduate Melissa Heinonen looks back and is confident that she has been able to do exactly that, serving like the Healer did.

Physically

Since her graduation, Heinonen has healed her patients of all ages across the globe. Upon graduating from BYU, she worked in Primary Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City. There she realized that she was passionate about working with young children and their families.

From there she moved to Austin, Texas where she worked at the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center of Central Texas for two years. “I loved working in Texas,” she says, “It was so inspiring to take part in helping a young child receive strength again.” It was here that she saw both the devastating effects of disease and healing power a nurse can bring.

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Heinonen with a mother and daughter during her medical mission trip to Nigeria in 2012.

These experiences inspired Heinonen to go abroad and use her medical talents overseas. Her first experience was in 2010 following the earthquake in Haiti. A few years later, she traveled to Nigeria where she provided primary care services to a rural community. Once again, her eyes were opened to the positive influence nurses can have on a community.

In 2014, after receiving a Master of Nursing degree from the University of Washington, she and her young family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they currently reside, where she works part-time as a family practitioner in a private practice called Grow Pediatrics. Even though now she spends less time at the hospital she cherishes the time she can spend with her two boys. “I love the flexibility my job brings. I can spend a few days a week doing what I love without having to give up time with those whom I love,” she says.

Mentally

Heinonen also knows that a nurse’s job description goes beyond just physical healing but also mental healing. While working in Texas in the cancer clinic Heinonen saw the suffering felt by the children and their parents. While nursing the patient as best she could, she also provided support for devastated mothers and fathers who were distraught from the situation of their child. In fact, she still maintains relationships with many of those families today.

She also did this on the medical missions that she completed. In Haiti, she saw how the earthquake shook people’s lives. Thousands were injured physically, but thousands more were hurt mentally and emotionally. Her presence as a nurse comforted people as they dealt with the tragedy that changed their lives completely.

Spiritually

Heinonen also attributes her career to her strong testimony in the gospel. “Nursing has strengthened my testimony that each person is a unique and a loved child of God,” she explains, “I know that our Savior loves each of us individually and my work certainly teaches me more about that every day.”

That testimony that she has been able to form has helped her professionally with her patients and, possibly more importantly, with her four year-old and two year-old sons. As she teaches them about God, she often draws upon her experiences as a nurse. She says, “I try to teach my children that each person deserves to be treated with dignity and love as the Savior would. I help them understand the pure love He feels for us and His special ability to heal us.”

Her career in nursing has also helped her be a missionary. Her experience has helped her develop skills in communication and teaching as well as increasing her capacity to serve and be compassionate. She explains, “Now it is easier for me to connect with patients and get to know them and their unique circumstances. That gives me the courage to share the gospel and be an example of the Healer.”

Now, looking back at the life she has lived, Heinonen sees how each experience has been for her benefit. Even with all of her travels and homes across the nation, she knows that wherever she is, she can take the Healer’s art with her. “I love that I was able to learn nursing as the Healer’s art at BYU. It helps me see the Lord’s hand in my life and motivates me to strive to be the best nurse and mother I can be each day.”

Three Nursing Student Experiences with Ohio Internship

By Mindy Longhurst

all threeImage of Christin Hickman, James Reinhardt and Cortney Welch at The Ohio State University. Image courtesy of Hickman.

Three College of Nursing students were able to research with some of the best mentors in the field of cancer research this summer with The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC). The experiences that they had this summer were once in a lifetime (to learn more about how they received the internship opportunity read our previous article https://byunursing.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/a-really-good-big-deal/). Christin Hickman, Cortney Welch and James Reinhardt were able to work with a team of fellow researchers on a certain topic about cancer or cancer-related research. The team that they worked with involved a statistician, a PhD supervisor and a few other research students. In Ohio, a study was conducted that focused on a wide range of health topics, from this information each of the students focused on one aspect of the questionnaire for possible correlations. Following the summer’s research, they worked on publishing an article about their research and presented to a room full of PhD professors on their research findings.

templeImage of Christin Hickman and others at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Columbus, Ohio temple. Image courtesy of Welch.

Christin’s experience

Christin Hickman, a fourth semester nursing student, wanted to participate in this internship experience to see if she wanted to do research full-time in the future. During this time, Hickman focused on colorectal cancer, which is a very preventable form of cancer through regular colonoscopy screenings. Hickman was able to see if there was a difference in knowledge and awareness of colorectal screening rates for those who live in urban areas versus rural areas. Through studying and research, she discovered that in Ohio there is little difference in the knowledge and amount of screenings in rural versus urban participants. The experiences that she had in Ohio helped her to prepare for the future and understand more about how research works. Hickman explains, “This experience helped me to secure my destiny. It feels like research is really what I want to do with my life.” In the future Hickman wants to study more about precision medicine and genetic research.

cortney welch with posterImage of Cortney Welch with her poster that was presented to PhD professors of her research findings. Image courtesy of Welch.

Cortney’s experience

Third semester nursing student, Cortney Welch, enjoyed her time in Ohio. She was able to research if there was a correlation in social cohesion in communities and colorectal cancer screenings. By the end of the summer, she was able to conclude that there is not a correlation in social cohesion in communities and colorectal cancer screenings. Along with the research, Welch was also able to work in a blood sample lab for patients who are using clinical trials for cancer treatment. She was able to help centrifuge, aliquoted blood and labeled the blood samples. Welch loved the experience that she received in both research labs. Welch says, “The internship was a growing experience. When I came home from the internship, I felt accomplished that I had experienced my first taste of a full-time job. I had learned how to do research, how to write a paper. I felt like it was a great use of my summer. It was hard and it was frustrating at times and tedious but I think it was well worth my time. I learned a lot.”

all three with HimesImage of Hickman, Reinhardt and Welch with assistant professor Dr. Deborah Himes. Image courtesy of Hickman.

James’ experience

James Reinhardt, a fourth semester nursing student, was able to focus his research on preventing cancer through a research study on men’s overall health. He studied at-risk participants on how they rated their health. Reinhardt tried to understand why some men would rate their health as poor. Since many of the participants did not take the survey throughout the intervention process, it was very difficult for Reinhardt to come to any conclusion about why these men rated their health as low. However, throughout the process in Ohio, Reinhardt learned many lessons. Reinhardt expounds, “I hopefully will be able to better see road blocks in future research projects. My overall experience was great! We did get to work along with medical students and students from different schools so that was a cool mix to be in. I got to learn how research is vital.”

Overall, the College of Nursing students had a great experience in Ohio. They were able to learn and grow to become better nurses. They are now taking the skills that they learned in Ohio and are implementing them into their current nursing studies.