I remember

I was a registered nurse with many years of experience in child and adolescent mental health when I moved to Honolulu and was offered a position as the Family Support Nurse in the pediatric units at a hospital there. Much of this position involved working with all the children and families who were diagnosed with cancer. This meant meeting them and working with them from the time of diagnosis, through treatment and to whatever outcome resulted. We always hoped for the best outcome, but in the mid- to late 80s, and even today although less so, this outcome sometimes meant being with them while their children were dying or had died and working with them afterwards as they faced learning to live with a lifetime grief.


I have so many memories of those years in Hawaii and the lessons I learned from the children and families stay with me today. I remember playing with John in his secluded hospital room after his bone marrow transplant, when he declared that he wanted his hair to grow back yellow this time, like Auntie Nancy’s. I remember sitting with his mom and dad as they held his body for the last time. Though they did not speak a word of English, nor me a word of Vietnamese, we shared a language no parent wishes to learn.



I remember standing on top of Punchbowl at the graveside, surrounded by Amoe’s family, purple leis and purple balloons, as we watched her ashes return to her great grandmother buried there. I stood with her mom, watching a group of purple balloons break away from the tree and float towards the city of Honolulu and the brilliant blue ocean, hearing her mom say “There she goes.”

Overlooking the graveyard in Honolulu where Dr. Moules’ former patients Amoe was buried

I remember, as well, the laughter of kids having fun in the hospital where you might think fun and laughter never happened. It did! And I remember kids leaving the hospital with their futures bright before them. I hear from those kids from time to time still (almost 30 years later). Marsi, beautiful as a teenager with cancer, now married, with children, no cancer!


And Wendylee, whose letter and class photo came to me after I returned to Canada, stays with me still, faded on pink paper.


My work in this area has marked me in so many ways, or more correctly stated, the kids and families have marked me forever. They continue to speak to me as I pursue research in trying to understand and make living better for children and families experiencing cancer. My life’s work.


— Dr Nancy J Moules, RN, PhD. Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, Kids Cancer Care Foundation Chair in Child and Family Cancer Care

Watch a webinar on Nancy’s research here 

Visit Nancy’s University of Calgary Faculty of Nursing webpage 

Nancy’s photo gallery