C.N. Janaki, in her nurse's uniform and starched white cap that keeps wispy white hair neatly in place, has a quick smile that forms deep dimples in her cheeks. The matron is 70 years old and has 49 years of experience as a nurse at the Cancer Institute in Adyar.

No regrets

Ms. Janaki lost her parents when she was 11, and her brother sent her to Avvai Home, a residential facility for orphans in Adyar. In 1964, after training as a nurse, she joined the Cancer Institute and has never looked back.

She barely recognises cancer as a dreaded disease. Unlike in the older days, thing are different now, she says. Ms. Janaki has remained single, devoted to her work. And what has she learnt from her experience? “That I have come this far is an achievement. I have done well in life. As for work, in the early years it was difficult. Now so many new techniques have come to make our job easy,” she said.

Accolades received

Ms. Janaki was one of the nurses in the State, chosen by the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University, for this year's lifetime achievement award, presented on International Nurse's Day, which fell on May 12.

V. Renuka Devi, 54, also a recipient of the award graduated as a nurse from the Madras Medical College and has around 34 years of experience. Her daughter is in college and her husband is a lawyer practising in the Madras High Court. She enjoys her work at the hospital. “I have seen a lot of children come for treatment. What hurts me most is when I hear that someone has died despite treatment,” she says. It is difficult for her to hear of a child's death. “When patients are treated and then they die, I am very upset,” she said.

Jeeva's persona would put any patient at ease. An able leader, she organises International Nurse's Day programmes at the institute.

‘Make a commitment'

According to Dr. V. Shanta, chairman, Cancer Institute, it was Ms. Jeeva who introduced the concept at the institute two years ago. On Saturday, she paid tributes to the nurses and urged them to rededicate themselves and to “make a commitment to do the job well”.

Jeeva travelled and worked abroad before she chose to come to the Cancer Institute. Her rich experience has helped her develop professionally, she said.

Perhaps the best motivation comes from forgotten achievements. T.G. Sagar, director of the Institute, recalled that it was a nurse in the early twentieth century, Mary Joseph, who first identified a malignant nodule, which later came to be known the Sister Mary Joseph nodule after her.

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