Nurse, cancer warrior and ‘true team player’ worked through treatment
UCHealth nurse Carrie Guffey was having routine bloodwork done in January 2022 when she received an “out of the blue” call from an oncologist: They found cancer in her blood.
“I never had symptoms,” said Guffey, labor and delivery nurse at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies (MCR) in Loveland. “They called me and said, ‘You have this type of leukemia. You need to go to Anschutz Medical Campus. They’re holding a bed for you, and you’ll be there four to six weeks.’
“I had two hours. They wanted to start treatment as soon as possible. It was pretty intense.”
Guffey immediately left for Aurora and checked into UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital (UCH). The next morning, she woke up to see “everyone totally gowned up and masked up.”
She learned she had tested positive on admission for COVID-19. She still had no symptoms, but because she was immunocompromised, it took weeks for her body to clear the virus.
Because of the COVID-19 diagnosis, Guffey was required to be isolated on a surgical floor, rather than the oncology unit, for most of her stay and treatment at the hospital. Her two young children and her husband, a firefighter, would primarily talk with her through a digital tablet for the next month.
Months of outpatient treatment with arsenic infusions followed. Guffey said she counted her blessings that she didn’t experience strong nausea or fatigue. In April, she was able to start coming in to pick up shifts.
“It just filled my heart to come and not be the patient – to be the nurse was just fantastic,” she said. Colleagues helped to make sure she didn’t need to go in rooms where patients were infectious.
Guffey gradually increased her time at work and, a year later, is back up to full, 12-hour shifts twice per week. The cancer isn’t officially in remission, but she said she’s on a waiting period while monitoring lab results.
“Carrie is an incredible nurse with a long history of being a true team player on the mother-family unit,” nurse manager Laurie Dupuis said. “We were incredibly saddened to learn of her cancer diagnosis. We knew she was a fighter, and we were beyond willing to support her through her journey of recovery.
“Carrie was insistent to continue to work through her treatment when the plan allowed. It was an exciting day to have Carrie back (at full capacity) and caring for moms and babies, which is truly her passion.”
Guffey said the support of her family as well as her nursing colleagues helped her get through the challenges.
“Last year was the biggest curveball I could have ever expected,” she said, adding that she appreciates her health and being able to come into work. “Someone said, ‘We can tell you’re having fun and smiling with a mask on.’”
On Feb. 4, Guffey was honored among other UCHealth cancer warriors at the Colorado State University men’s basketball Fight Like a Ram game, where the players swapped the names on their jerseys out for those of patients.
Guffey has been a mother-and-family nurse for 16 years, and she started at MCR when it opened. Growing up, she would sometimes accompany her mother to the labor and delivery unit where she was a scrub tech.
“This was the exact type of nursing I wanted to do,” she said. “It’s part of my nature, taking care of people.”