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“This is what I’m meant to do”

“This is what I’m meant to do”

This is what I’m meant to do. I have been a nurse since 1999, and I’ve worked at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago ever since I was a nursing student. For the past four years, I’ve worked as an oncology nurse at our Creticos Cancer Center.

Working with cancer patients every day brings a new perspective that not many people have, and for that I feel truly blessed. We get to know our patients—and their families—so well, and we see them through good days and bad, amazing outcomes and heartbreaking news, easy decisions and hard ones. In my opinion, it’s a privilege that they let us into their lives during this time.

My day usually begins before everyone else’s. I get into the hospital around 6 am to go over the patients we have scheduled for the day and sort their charts. This is my favorite part of the day, and being prepared in advance helps the rest of the day run so much more smoothly.

Once the clinic opens at 8 am, I team up with my BFF, Dr. Sangeetha Nimmagadda, and we start seeing patients together until 2:30 pm when the clinic closes.

The dynamic Dr. Nimmagadda and I have makes us a great team. She’s the perfect doctor for me and I’m the perfect nurse for her (in my opinion, at least!) When we see patients, we have a rhythm thanks to our great chemistry and open working relationship. Our medical assistant, Evonne Rodriguez, rounds out our Dynamic Trio! Throughout the day, we see patients with a wide variety of conditions, from lung and breast cancer to non-cancerous blood disorders.

There are definitely difficult moments—there are times when I just have to step away or I know I’m going to cry. There was a period in my career when I thought I was done with nursing altogether. I didn’t think I could take the heartbreaking conversations anymore.

But, just when I thought I was done, a patient opened my eyes to how full of blessings life can be. She was one of the many blessings that have come across my path while working as an oncology nurse.

It’s patients like her who inspire me with their strength as they experience a life-altering diagnosis and treatment journey. For example, today I saw a patient who came in to go over scans, which show that her stage IV cancer is stable. Her grace and positivity in the face of this challenge inspires me. Every time I see her, she is always smiling. When you ask her how she is doing, it is always something positive—she is just a joy. Her smile and gratitude is why I get up every day and come here.

After the clinic closes, I make follow-up phone calls and schedule tests for my patients. Throughout the day, I also try to answer my phone whenever a patient calls. These patients have cancer. They have enough to worry about—they don’t need to go to voicemail.

After I wrap up my phone calls, I head home to start my second job as a proud mom to three amazing kids who don’t ever let me sit down and relax! I help with homework and hear about their day at school, and lately, the conversation has been about what fall activity they want to start at school (art or choir).

Even though some days are both physically and emotionally exhausting, I wouldn’t trade this job or life for anything else. This is what I am meant to be.

And if you want to learn and see more, I’m taking over Advocate Masonic’s Instagram Tuesday, October 4th. Follow along at @advocatemasonic on Instagram.

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  1. Such an awesome and inspiring story! Future nurses need to follow your stories for encouragement to stay the course of their goal of becoming a nurse!

  2. Thank You for sharing your story and for all that you do…

  3. Cheryl Jamison-Jenkins October 3, 2016 at 11:29 am · Reply

    Great article!!! I have witnessed the team of RN and MD and CMA mentioned in this artice and its wonderful to see in action!!! Proud of you Tamiko!

  4. Great article. Thank you for all you do.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I have had the pleasure of working with your team which I feel you guys do such an awesome job within your clinic!!!

  6. This was beautiful Tamiko!! Thank you for your tenacity and sharing with all of us. You are truly an inspiration!!!

  7. weltonia chatman October 3, 2016 at 12:25 pm · Reply

    I am so proud of you lil sister this is amazing job that you do everyday love you keep up the good work continue to do what you was born to do I am so proud of you reading your story tears are dropping from my eyes because I know you work very hard to get to this place in your life love you lil sister

  8. Maritess Caamic October 3, 2016 at 1:10 pm · Reply

    I have the deep honor of working with the amazing team of caregivers at Creticos! Tamiko is a shining example of our collaborative, passionate and empathetic team! Thank you, Tamiko, for sharing your aspirational story!

  9. Terrance Thomas October 3, 2016 at 3:35 pm · Reply

    This is such a aspiring story we need more people like you !

  10. Thank you for your dedication and hard work. I know the patients appreciate your giving spirit each and everyday.

  11. This is a heartfelt story… reading her story really inspiring me to be a nurse. She is committed and dedicated… you rock Tamiko king?

  12. What an amazing story…. you really inspire me to be a Nurse one day. You are a wonderful committed dedicated person… you rock Tamiko???

  13. This is so wonderful to hear!! It is exciting to hear about people who are committed to their work! It is obvious that Nurse Tamiko is dedicated to the work and her patients! She is making a difference in the lives of her patients. More people like Nurse Tamiko needs to be honor for their hard work and perservance!! I really enjoyed reading this article. Congrats!!

  14. Working with Tamiko King Thomas has been a wonderful experience. She exemplifies all of the characteristics of an outstanding Oncology RN. She has brought compassion and tremendous insight into patient care at Masonic. We are very lucky to have her at Creticos and specifically I am very lucky to have her as my partner in patient care!

  15. Tamiko: As a former Leukemia patient, I appreciate the care you and the “541” oncology Team at IMMC provided me. You helped give me 15 more years (and counting) of real living, and I will always appreciate you!

  16. Tamiko, my sister was a patient of Dr. Nimmagadda mid-April to the beginning of June 2016 and eventually transitioned to Lutheran General because of a transplant need. I remember seeing you and Evonne at the clinic. Thank you to the Dynamic Trio for providing my sister with excellent care. Advocate is certainly lucky to have caring associates like you.

  17. Tamiko: You always were a good nurse. I’m glad to see you found your calling and love your job.

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About the Author

Tamiko King Thomas
Tamiko King Thomas

Tamiko King-Thomas is an oncology nurse at the Creticos Cancer Center at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three children.