An inspirational nurse who beat cancer and is now caring for other patients with the condition in Wales in her native tongue is in the running for a top health award.
Siwan Owen, 29, has been nominated for the Welsh Language Award in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board staff awards.
“She was one of the main reasons I have followed the career path that I have”
Ms Owen, who works in the North Wales Cancer Treatment Centre at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan, will be among the finalists at the awards ceremony in Llandudno on 10 November.
She said: “I was amazed to find out I had been nominated but it’s really nice to think someone has recognised what I do in my day to day work. But it’s not just about me, it’s about the whole team I work with.
“I know from my own experience that being able to hear your diagnosis and what’s happening to you in your first language, in my case Welsh, is so important,” she said. “It’s especially important when you have just heard you have cancer.
“Translating medical information and details of medication and treatments into Welsh is so important for a Welsh first language patient especially at a time when they are at their most vulnerable,” she noted.
She added: “I have been through the cancer experience and know what it’s like so being able to understand your diagnosis and get advice in your first language is vital. I don’t think I do anything too special to be honest.”
Ms Owen was inspired to become a haematology clinical nurse thanks to the nurse who helped her when she was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was just 11.
She said: “I grew up in Trelogan, Flintshire, where I still live. I fell ill when I was 11 and it took two weeks before I finally got my diagnosis. I was treated at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Cancer patient turned specialist nurse in running for award
“I had to undergo two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy,” she said. “As Welsh was, and still is, my first language having someone there to tell me what was happening in Welsh so I could fully understand was so important to me.
“I was helped by an inspirational nurse called Eleri Roberts. I still see her quite often and talk on the phone. She was one of the main reasons I have followed the career path that I have,” said Ms Owen.
She noted that she had a “rough time” during her cancer treatment, losing all her hair, having to use a wheelchair and ultimately developing bone necrosis.
“Aged 25, I had hip replacement surgery on one side and the following year the other side. I need to have a shoulder replacement too but I’m putting that off for as long as possible,” she added.
Ms Owen was nominated for the award by the health board’s Welsh language tutor Ceri Phillips.
“Siwan is so passionate about what she does,” she said. “There is no doubt in my mind she would be a thoroughly deserving recipient of the staff Welsh language award. She is inspirational.”
The health board received more than 100 nominations across the 15 categories for the staff awards.
Also nominated for same award as Ms Owen is the Outpatients Department of Ysbyty Dolgellau for Pwy Ydych Chi? a bilingual interactive communication tool to reduce anxiety for patients.
The third finalist is Edwin Humphreys, a staff nurse at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl in Pwllheli, for his work in raising awareness of dementia in primary schools through the medium of Welsh.
“It’s vital we support our dedicated and hard working staff”
Board chief executive Gary Doherty said the awards were designed to celebrate the hard work, commitment and success of both staff and volunteers.
He said: “It’s vital we support our dedicated and hard working staff and, as a board, we believe these awards will show just how much we value all our colleagues, right across the organisation.
“I look forward to meeting and personally thanking all the nominees for helping deliver the wonderful service they do to patients, right across North Wales,” he added.
The event has been sponsored by IT provider Centreprise International Business. Chief executive Jez Nash said: “We are proud to be supporting the NHS in North Wales and are looking forward to recognising and celebrating the achievements of their dedicated professionals.”