Jodi Hyman doesn't consider the treatment room at CancerCare Manitoba a depressing place, even as heavy-duty chemotherapy drugs drip into the bloodstreams of her patients.
To the Winnipeg oncology nurse, it's a unique place where volunteers play their guitars and help patients create art.
It's also a room where Hyman, 42, gets to spend valuable time with the patients she treats -- learning from them, laughing with them, and occasionally, crying with them.
"It's actually a very vibrant place with a lot of activity. It's a very special room because it's the only place where you can -- in the span of one day -- tap into people's emotions and into people's greatest fears," she says.
"And by the same token, talk to people about their greatest joys: their pets, their grandchildren, their children, their dreams and their hopes."
Her outlook and dedication to her job is what got the Fort Garry resident named Nurse of the Year -- a national award sponsored by the pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim in partnership with the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology.
Hyman will accept her award Tuesday at a ceremony in Vancouver during the association's annual conference.
Eleven other nurses from across the country were nominated for the award, which includes $5,000 towards continuing education.
A colleague at CancerCare nominated Hyman for the prize. A panel of oncology nurses chose her as the winner.
Hyman, who grew up in River Heights, started her career in oncology nursing 19 years ago at St. Boniface General Hospital. A shortage of nursing jobs in Manitoba led to her accept a position in London, where she chose to work in a six-bed oncology ward over a 34-bed liver-disease ward.
"(Oncology) chose me," says Hyman.
Eight years later, a colleague convinced her and a few other nurse pals to move to Sydney, Australia, where she worked until five years ago when she returned to Winnipeg.
Today, her main role is training oncology nurses in the province, although she still takes care of patients, her first love.
"I truly believe that you can't teach what you don't practise," says Hyman, who attended high school at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate.
She says she has treated "hundreds and hundreds" of patients in her two-decades-long career.
She prides herself in staying on top of current cancer treatment advancements and the ins and outs of what's happening with patients at CancerCare.
"I find it frustrating when things move really slowly. Because I'm quite outspoken, I really work hard at getting things done in a timely manner."
CancerCare Manitoba patient Leslie Smith says Hyman's comforting and proactive presence helped get her through two years and counting of cancer treatment.
"She makes everything seem so easy. When you go there you're quite uneasy as a patient. Just her personality and her compassion and the way she deals with everybody. When she's looking after you she's constantly asking how you are and if there's anything she can do for you. She's very good at her job," she says.
Smith, who is battling Stage 4 liver cancer, recalls one frustrating day when she waited for over an hour to get her medication pump removed at CancerCare.
That's when Hyman spotted her in distress.
"She went ahead and (removed my pump) after her lunch break. She can tell when somebody is upset. She'll just come along and do her best to make you feel comfortable," says Smith, who used to work in housekeeping at a health-care facility before getting sick.
That's where she saw some staffers' hearts weren't in their jobs.
"They don't really give a crap about you. It's like they are there for the money and not for the true interest in the profession that they've chosen," says Smith, noting Hyman is someone who obviously loves her job and the patients that come with it.
"(Jodi) just adds a little bit of sunshine to everyone's visit."
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