City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

The Ebb & Flow of Gratitude

An interview with Oncology Nurse Joni Arneson

Thankfulness is no stagnant thing. It is not sitting around and waiting for the next miracle. Thankfulness shines and flickers between acts of giving and receiving so that one person’s gratitude becomes another’s encouragement. Joni Arneson sees thankfulness in action every day. As an Outpatient Oncology Nurse at Community Cancer Care and Prevention in Missoula, she helps patients and their families going through treatment.

S: What led you to become a nurse?

J: That whole thing where things happen for a reason? It really fell into place for me. I graduated from UM with a Health and Human Performance degree with the hopes of getting into Physical Therapy school. I couldn’t get in so I applied to nursing school at MSU and was accepted. I was put where I needed to be before I realized I needed to be there. I love taking care of cancer patients. I know I’m making a difference in their lives. I visit with them, laugh with them, and cry with them.

S: You’ve been a nurse for twenty-two years. What keeps you going?

J: I enjoy building relationships with people. You meet the family, learn about their lives, and you end up becoming part of their lives. Of course, they want to give back. We just had one patient bead lanyards for all the nurses. The chemo made her fingertips numb and painful yet she figured out a way to do her beading for us. That just blew my mind. It’s crazy how the patients are the ones making me feel good sometimes. Their families are so inspiring, too. I had one patient whose kids were getting married. She was able to see her son’s wedding but we weren’t sure she would make it to see her daughter’s. The family organized a ceremony at their mom’s bedside. You can see families coming together like that. It makes me feel thankful for health and togetherness.

S: Your own family had a difficult time this year. Did it bring all of you together even more?

J: My family has been very lucky. We haven’t had to deal with cancer in such a traumatic way but this year has been hard. My mom had a life-threatening medical emergency. She’d never had surgery and she went through three surgeries in six days. We were all very nervous for her going in. We were so thankful when she came off the vent without any difficulty. When she was in rehab in the spring we couldn’t go into her room. I spent most of the time on a lawn chair outside her window, talking through the glass. For mom, it was so lonely. She said that if we could just sit beside her, we wouldn’t even have to talk. Having someone in the room meant that much to her. We called them our prison visits because it was in Deer Lodge. We laugh about that now but I’m so thankful for her continued strength and courage to heal. She’s showing our family that no matter how difficult things become, we can achieve what we need to accomplish. 

S: It seems like the harder things get, the bigger those little things become.

J: Yes. In my work it’s thankfulness on both the patient’s and the nurse’s side. It can range from small things like high enough blood counts to get treatment that day, to big moments like being alive for a family event. I get to hear about those events and that makes me thankful. 

S: Thanksgiving is coming up. How will you and your family celebrate?

J: Our family has this tradition. There’s a song from The Muppet Christmas Carol called, “Bless Us All.” My mom absolutely loves it. We’ve sung it every Thanksgiving since I was a kid. Mom is always the one singing. The teens laugh. Grandma gives everybody a look. Some of us, growing up, would barely sing along. Now, as adults, we’ve had it read at our weddings. It’s something that is a huge part of our family—and it’s the damn Muppets!