May is National Oncology Nursing Month, and to honor the incredible dedication, skill, and compassion our nurses bring to each Navvisa patient and their loved ones every day, we wish to take this month to shine a spotlight on each individual and their remarkable talents.
MEET ERICA MENEFEE
Erica Menefee, MS, BSN, RN, CPT, CES, BHCN always knew she wanted to be a nurse. Going in and out of the hospital as a little girl, she remembers being comforted by the nurses. They held her hand, they talked her through procedures, and they took the fear away. Their impact resonated with Erica, and she knew she wanted to offer the same comfort to others. Erica earned her degree and became a nurse 13 years ago and has worked as an oncology nurse navigator for the past 8 years. In addition, she received certification as a Breast Health Navigator (BHCN) and as a Cancer Exercise Specialist (CES).
What aspect of oncology nursing does Erica find most interesting?
Exercise changed Erica’s life. Her youngest daughter was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 3 yrs old, and at the time, Erica was working as an oncology nurse. She found herself pouring so much into her daughter’s cancer journey, that she put her own health on the backburner. As a result, she gained 80 lbs and experienced an array of other health issues that come with an unhealthy lifestyle. She decided she wanted to be better for her daughter, and so while she was undergoing chemotherapy, Erica and her daughter started walking together around the neighborhood. Her daughter is a dancer and so they would dance together in the living room. These activities fueled a fire within Erica and pushed her to start running and lifting weights, and in doing so not only did the scale move but the health issues that were killing her were reversed. Thankfully, Erica’s daughter beat cancer, and Erica is confident that exercise saved both of their lives.
Because of these powerful experiences, Erica has a huge passion now for empowering and educating people to take control of their health and to make the changes needed to support them through their cancer treatment, reduce side effects, feel better, and lower their risk of recurrence. As Erica shared,
“Advocating for my patients is a necessary part of my own personal wellbeing, and I aspire to have my patients living well too.”
What draws Erica to oncology nursing?
One of Erica’s favorite patient experiences was when she was caring for a young breast cancer patient and walked with her through her entire journey, from beginning to end. The patient was 25 years old when was diagnosed and had a 3-year-old daughter at the time; she was terrified by her diagnosis. She trusted Erica with her life. Erica explained,
“My experience with her is one I’ll never forget because it felt more REAL for me. Caring for someone around the same age, and just knowing all that she had to endure gave me the extra strength to show up for her more than ever.”
The patient went through months of chemo, surgery, reconstruction, and was cancer free for about 6 months. She came in for a follow-up clinical exam and, when the breast ultrasound image appeared on the screen, Erica’s heart dropped. She knew the cancer was back. Erica and the patient cried together that day, and Erica promised her that she would be there with her every step of the way to get through it again.
“What I loved about it all is that she never lost hope, she never lost faith, and she radiated positivity. She helped me be a better nurse! She helped me be a better person! And she reminded me to never take life for granted. I saw myself in her, and my experience with her renewed my passion for oncology nursing. There’s nothing else I’d rather do!”
And what is a “fun fact” many people might not know?
People may not be aware that Erica is an author of a wellness workbook called Fill Your Cup that was published in January 2023 and is available on Amazon. It was something she wanted to do to help others begin to really live well.