So many issues as far as oncology is concerned: treatment, support, truth, more.
If you are a support person or loved one of someone with cancer, I hope you’ll read this piece by an oncology nurse I met through my other blog.
Cancer treatment can be brutal. I’ve been in infusion rooms, it’s obvious. So it’s easy to miss that progress has been made in chemo and other treatment. I know I missed it entirely.
Don’t get me wrong: still brutal. In a few decades people are going to say “Can you believe they used to POISON people to treat cancer?”
But Victoria’s insights gave me a little different angle. A look back, if you will, by someone who knows oncology in a way I don’t.
I’ve also read a lot about whether patients should be told “everything” or just “what they want to hear,” so I was interested in feedback from a professional who’s been with these patients. And I also believe she provides helpful input to those who are looking to be of service.
By Victoria E.
Back in 1984 when I graduated from college with my nursing degree I had no idea in what direction my career would go. I started out on a medical-surgical floor, moved from there to the operating room. I loved the OR. I hurt my knee skiing and had to be on light duty for awhile and the slowest paced OR room was the urology room so I did urology till I left the OR. I went through a number of positions until I ended up in Columbus, Oh at the cancer hospital.
I got the position due to my experience with urology. They needed a nurse that could do the different urologic procedures for cancer patients. In this clinic, I worked with mostly men, we took care of a lot of prostate cancer patients, bladder cancer, and some kidney cancer. I also got floated to other areas of the clinic so I worked with every type of cancer.
The big difference between when I started at the clinic and when I retired was the advances made in cancer treatment. In 1991 when I started at the clinic people came in for their treatments on gurneys by ambulance and in wheelchairs, by the time I retired in 2015 people would come in on their lunch hour from work. Yes, there is still a lot of IV chemotherapy given but instead of every week some folks get treatment every three weeks, they have a portable IV so they can get treatment at home and there is chemo that comes in pill form. The world of cancer changed in 24 years.
Every diagnosis is an individual diagnosis, no two people react the same to the diagnosis or the treatment. Family and friends react differently than the patient. Faith played a large part with some patients and their families. You had patients who heard their diagnosis and took it up on themselves to learn everything there was to know regarding the diagnosis and treatment. And folks who wanted to know as little as possible and just wanted to do what ever the doctor offered.
Patients that wanted to be informed would search out everything there was to know and a lot of times knew more at some point than the nurses did. These patients would arrive with a briefcase full of information, they would know every treatment that was available and every clinical trial and where the trials were being offered.
It was hard sometimes to determine which patients/family wanted to know it all and who just wanted the minimum. The patients that didn’t let cancer become their life seemed happier. These patients continued celebrating the holidays, they visited friends and family they took their vacations.
Cancer in this day is not an automatic death sentence but there is cancer that has fewer treatment options or is harder to treat. And some cancer becomes more active as time passes. It was always so hard when a patient was told that everything that could be done had been. This usually meant the patient would no longer come in to see the doctor. We formed relationships with our patients and we might have been seeing them for a year or more. The nurses have special relationships with a patient, we answered the questions that they felt would just tie up the doctors time.
Most patients are not good about asking for help. And a spouse or other family member may be over whelmed with all that has to be done.and they aren’t comfortable asking for help either. If you are a patients, think about what you might want someone to do for you, pick up groceries, cook a meal, pick up prescriptions, drive them to appointments– there is any number of things that need to be done… (note from Carol: if you are a loved one, be proactive in offering specific services, such as those Victoria mentions.)
Remembering that the patient is still able to make decisions and can function as the adult they are is very important. Sometimes family and friends think they are helping by treating a patient like they are invalid or can no longer function as they always have, this does a disservice to the patient.
Here’s a little about Victoria: