Racing nurse plans to put winnings to good use

At Moffitt Cancer Center, Oksana Shavaryn-Sharkey helps save lives. When she's not working her day job, she's at the track, racing for them.

When Oksana leaves her day job as a nurse, you can find her whizzing around the track at Andersen Racepark in Palmetto.

"I don't know, maybe it's just [a] natural ability," she said. "I have no clue. Seriously. I love to drive. Seriously." 

Oksana moved to the United States from Ukraine, where she barely even drove a car, she says.

"Even [if] I do have a car at home, like my father has a car, so we'd share when we'd go somewhere," she explained. "But I really didn't have a chance to drive a lot until I came over here to the States."

It's been just over a year since Oksana got behind the wheel. She'd been watching her husband, Jonathon, race alone, and decided to give him a little company.

"I kind of liked it," she remembered. "That's how all that started." 

"Some people just have a natural ability," said Jonathon.

But what Oksana brought wasn't just company, it was competition. Not long after taking her first spin around the track, Oksana out-raced her husband, who's been racing for years. 

"I was excited and scared at the same time," said Oksana. "I knew he wouldn't be happy about it."

"Originally, I was in a state of shock," said Jonathon. "As a driver, I was just like 'Grrrr!' but as the husband and the one who's kind of been instructing her along with people here at Andersen, I was proud. You know, the student beat the master." 

The couple says Oksana has been approved to race in the F2000 Championship Series, an open wheel competition. 

For now, she'll keep her day job with her patients, who find her pastime a bit interesting, considering her profession as a nurse.

"They're like, ‘but those two are not compatible. You alright?’ You're saving people's lives, at the same time, you're doing something crazy and dangerous like that," she laughed. 

It's a balancing act she's passionate about.

Oksana and her husband tell us future winnings will be used to help create a cancer center in her home country of Ukraine.