Career Changes, Cancer and Beekeeping? Dialysis Nurse Takes on Life’s Twists

Meet Your MRP: Fiona Mervyn, LPN, Peritoneal Dialysis Community Care, MRP

To say there have been some twists and turns in Fiona Mervyn’s path might be a bit of an understatement. The 50-year-old peritoneal dialysis community care nurse has learned to put herself first after years of career changes, raising children and two bouts with cancer.

“I’m catering to me now,” she says about lessons learned.

When she was about 30 and a business manager with Kodak Canada she found herself facing her first cancer diagnosis and treatments. She said her thyroid cancer was caught early and, while the treatments were tough, generally the outlook was positive.

Not too long after – with her industry being impacted by digital technology – she took a severance package to be able to stay home with her young children.

Fast forward five years and Mervyn was ready to get into something new and this is where her run-in with the health-care system had an impact. She went back to school to become a licensed practical nurse.

This led her to working at Seven Oaks General Hospital, first in medicine than in-centre hemodialysis. When the peritoneal dialysis community care (PDCC) program launched in 2014, she had to apply.

“It sounded really exciting. It was also nice to be in on a program from the ground up.”

 

As part of the program, Mervyn visits dialysis patients in their homes to assess them, load machines and make recommendations on fluids. Mervyn is a fan of the program and says not only can patients live a closer-to-normal life with days free and little-to-no food restrictions, it’s actually less costly than in-centre dialysis.

The program is run by Manitoba Renal Program with a base at Health Sciences Centre and it serves the whole city.

“I really like the time we get to spend with patients.”

Shortly after starting to work with the PDCC program, Mervyn got a stage three breast cancer diagnosis and this time, the outlook wasn’t as good.

“It was a lot more serious.”

Mervyn said she found herself consoling the people around her when it was time to share the news about the diagnosis and start treatment.

“I didn’t start to deal with the cancer diagnosis until probably a year after it was done – the initial surgery was done – because everyone else around me needed so much support.”

She said staying positive was crucial. “Try to be positive and if you can’t stay positive then surround yourself with positive people.”

She says she definitely takes steps to be healthier these days, whether through nutrition or reducing stress.

While she was born and raised in Ontario, her husband’s job with Air Canada brought her to Manitoba where they now live in Stonewall with their 12 and 14-year-old sons. The family has eight beehives they maintain and produce honey with.

“He is the main apiarist and I am his assistant,” she says about her husband. “As are my two sons as well.”

Her kids do a lot of work with the hives and in turn get a portion of honey profits. “I really like the fact that our two boys are involved. The harder they work the more they benefit.”

And they are about to add scuba diving to their list of hobbies.

“One of the things that came out of my cancer was, okay, I got to start working on my bucket list.”

They are hoping to get certified and go on some scuba-centered family vacations in the next while.

Mervyn has also taken up advocating for resources for kids with dyslexia. Her son was diagnosed last year and she has discovered that resources for both diagnosis and ongoing support are not only expensive but limited. She wants support to be more accessible to more kids.

Mervyn is also happy to continue with her role in the renal program, visiting patients across the city, and is excited to see the program continue to expand.

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