Rose Joye attends to patient Johnny Sikes in his home. As a hospice nurse, she cares for 13 patients.
Rose Joye joked with Johnny Sikes as he lay in his hospital bed in his home off Hephzibah-McBean Road.
Before taking his temperature, Joye told the terminally ill patient with heart disease that they must clean and cook the fish they will catch when they go fishing, a favorite former pastime of Sikes. She then listened patiently to Sikes' faint voice as he tried to make a request.
"You're the king," Joye says with playful laughter. "You can have anything you want."
As a hospice nurse for United Hospice of Augusta, Joye cares for 13 patients, making home visits to help them prepare for their final days.
"With the patients, right when you think you've seen it all, something else happens," Joye said.
One year ago, the unexpected happened to her when Joye, 47, faced the possibility of becoming a patient after a malignant lump was found in her breast.
"On July 4 (of last year) I was diagnosed with breast cancer," said the mother of five and grandmother of six.
Joye completed her last radiation treatment April 1, the day she returned to work and resumed seeing patients.
Her cancer appears to be gone, and if no recurrences show in her annual checkups, she will be considered cured after five years.
"I've gone to another level, now that I know what my patients go through," said Joye, who worked in home health care as a licensed practical nurse for 13 years before becoming a registered nurse in 1997.
Since becoming a hospice nurse, Joye said, she has seen hundreds of patients, with whom she's done such activities as roll hair, polish fingernails, read the Bible, comfort families and do "extra things nurses don't have time to do."
"You get close to the families; I've been honorary pallbearers," she said. "Now I've probably pronounced 400 people dead."
Joye said she truly had thought she knew what her patients experienced - until she felt it firsthand.
"I realized chemo affects every part of your body," she said." It affected my eyesight. I had restless legs, mouth sores, heartburn."
More than the physical pain, though, was the emotional.
"I believe cancer can't steal your joy, spirit or laughter, but it does put a damper on it. That's why you've got to fight hard," she said.
Joye said her patients helped her grow spiritually. These days, she said she doesn't worry.
"I don't think the Lord brought me this far to let me down," she said.
She feels her job has helped prepare her for a trip with her church, First Family of Augusta, to Nicaragua next summer, where she will work as a missionary nurse - something she said she has wanted to do since she was 9 when she lost her 11-year-old brother to leukemia.
"Then I knew what I wanted to be," she said.
She said her own experience with cancer and chemotherapy has strengthened her faith and made her appreciate her job.
"Hospice isn't about dying; it's about living," she said. "Whatever life you have should be a good quality of life."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.