Life Lessons

Life Lessons: Patient becomes nurse

Rachel Barclay was a typical teenager growing up in Utah. A diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia at age 16 suddenly made her much less typical. She fought for her life for months, then years later, returned as a nurse to help other children in their fight. Now this nurse has a very special bond with the children in her unit.

Barclay knows what Landon and other cancer patients at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital need. She’s been here, done that.

“At the time, it was devastating, and it was…the treatment was obviously grueling and not something I would ever wish upon anyone,” said Nurse Rachel Barclay.

Barclay went through months of chemo, a drug trial, and a bone marrow transplant for leukemia here. As she got better, she had the strangest feeling.

“I found myself really wanting to give back because it’s such an amazing experience to be able to receive all that goes into helping you get better. And I wanted to be a part of that on the other end as well,” she explained.

Sara John was Barclay's patient care technician back then.

“A lot of teenagers can be kind of grumpy, and she just had this positive attitude, her family was fabulous,” said Nurse Sara John.

John never expected to see Barclay again, but a few years later, they’re both nurses at the hospital that saved Barclay's life. Barclay says the sickest kids come here, which can test hope.

“And then you have someone like Rachel come and work with you, and that hope is restored. You see someone who really didn't have a good chance and she’s here and she’s still alive, and you know that these patients, there’s hope for them, too,” John says.

Barclay doesn’t always tell the kids she was a patient here. She’s been on their journey and can share tips and real empathy.

“It definitely gives them hope and if nothing else, I’m happy to give the hope,” said Barclay.

She says all this helps heal her, too.

Barclay says she wouldn’t give up her place in the cancer community for anything because of the people she’s met and experiences she’s had. She says the greatest lesson she learned is to be comfortable with the very individual journey that you’re on, but still open to lessons that are sure to reveal themselves.


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