By Contributing Writer - May 06, 2019
Ever since Lorry Lewis stepped through the doors of Moffitt Cancer Center in 2007, she’s felt a vibe that makes this cancer center stand out from any other hospital she’s worked in, though she can’t quite put it into words.
Lewis joined the Moffitt family as a PRN nurse in the clinics, which was very different from her previous roles working in Intensive Care Units and catheterization labs. In fact, when she began her career as a nurse, she had no real interest in oncology. It wasn’t until she was looking to do something different in her career that she discovered her passion for it.
After about a year working in the clinics, Lewis transferred into the radiation oncology department as a full time employee. She says it was exciting because brachytherapy, a type of internal radiation therapy, was getting started and she got a front row seat to witness this historic breakthrough. Things were moving along smoothly until 2013 when she went from team member to patient.
Lewis had a spot on her back that she let go for a while. When she got it checked, doctors diagnosed her with stage 3B melanoma. She was shocked. Lewis had no family history of cancer and despite working at Moffitt, she didn’t think it could really happen to her. She underwent surgery, radiation and systemic therapy and says the experience was a gift because it made her a better nurse having walked in the shoes of her patients.
After five years in remission, just as Lewis approached the point most doctors would consider her cured of melanoma, she was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer. This time she underwent a lumpectomy and radiation.
Lewis is in remission and shares her cancer experience with select patients. One of those patients is Heather Hay. Hay is a mother of five who met Lewis while battling cervical cancer at Moffitt. Hay says Lewis inspired her to go back to school to become a nurse. Her goal is to land a job at Moffitt in the future and work alongside Lewis.
Lewis says the best part of her job is getting to know her patients like Hay. “Patients here are so grateful, more so than any place I’ve ever worked,” Lewis explained. “This is where I belong. I’ve never felt this way about any job in my life. I’ll retire here.”