If the memory of her childhood bestie is accurate, Joy Bunsko’s interest in nursing dates back more than 40 years.
“I was thinking about my wedding… my best friend said she remembered when I was four years old talking about wanting to be a nurse,” the South Surrey woman said Tuesday.
“I don’t remember that, but I do remember from a very young age having an interest in something along those lines.”
Fast-forward to present day, and Bunsko, now 50, is reflecting on a career in oncology nursing that has spanned almost 28 years – all of it at BC Cancer.
“I chose the right profession,” she told Peace Arch News from her office across the street from Surrey Memorial Hospital. “I didn’t look back.”
Bunsko – highlighted Tuesday (April 2) by BC Cancer to bring attention to the 16th Oncology Nursing Day – was among the first to write the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology certification exam, and was one of just 14 to apply for a trial course in oncology nursing when it was offered during her last year at UBC.
She was immediately hooked.
“I just loved everything about it from the get-go,” she said.
Over the years, Bunsko’s roles have ranged from educator to resource nurse, to where she is today, clinical service manager at BC Cancer-Surrey.
In her current role, which she has held since July, Bunsko oversees around 40 nurses, and said she continues to be in awe of the roles they play in the challenging field of oncology. Keeping up with the treatments and the science behind it, while supporting both patients and each other is something she’s no stranger to, and “my hat’s off every day,” she said.
Bunsko didn’t hesitate when asked if cancer has ever been a part of her personal life.
It first hit close to home not long after she had started working at the cancer agency, she said. Married for just two years, her husband Mark was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma and had to have a below-the-knee amputation. The news came not long after Mark had started working as a firefighter, and as the couple were preparing to travel to Greece.
At 32, he thought his firefighting career was over, Bunsko said.
Twenty-three years later, however, the picture is quite the opposite – Mark is now gearing up to retire from his position as a Surrey fire captain, and the couple is once again packing for Greece.
But while Bunsko has seen too many changes over the years, particularly to treatment options for patients, to highlight just one, she didn’t hesitate when asked if there is one patient who has stood out in her career.
She met the woman while working in Vancouver, and remembers how close and “incredible” her family was.
“She was young, she was beautiful and she was dying,” Bunsko said.
“I remember she had breast cancer and she really wanted to go to this event, a wedding. I just remember us all kind of gathering around, making sure her pain was under control, her family getting her all gussied up – new wig, dress and that – and I just thought, this is fantastic, because I knew she didn’t have long to live.
“It’s sort of making people still have hopes, and you want them to still have hope, and to provide that hope right up to the end of life.
“I think it’s a privilege, really.”