“You have cancer.” Those three simple words change your life forever. Here at St. Elizabeth Hospital, we hope to make your cancer journey as easy as possible. We do this by working as a multi-disciplinary team that includes your medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, thoracic surgeon, pulmonologist, social worker and patient navigator.
By working as a team we are able to provide the best possible care, with each individual playing a unique role. As a lung cancer nurse navigator, my role includes:
- Attending doctor appointments with patients and families so that they can attentively listen to and take in all of the information being given. I will take notes and help patients to fully understand all of the medical jargon, test results and treatment options.
- Checking in with patients at home to make sure all appointments are made and kept, schedules are followed, medications are being taken and questions and concerns are answered.
- Offering emotional support and encouragement when needed.
- Arranging help with transportation, insurance and financial issues
The overall role of the nurse navigator is to extend a helping hand to patients who may be feeling overwhelmed. The goal is to guide them through the system, be a resource to patients and let them know what to expect during their treatment. Though a cancer diagnosis changes your life, at St. Elizabeth Hospital it does not mean that you are alone in that change.
I attended a cancer continuing education course back in ’10-‘11 which covered all manner of topics related to patients that have been diagnosed with cancer. One of the most interesting pieces of advice that our speaker gave and that many different groups are taking up as well is that an individual becomes a cancer survivor the moment they are diagnosed. Maybe it would be difficult for you, but I know that personally it would take me less than 2 minutes to name at least 10 people or more that have been diagnosed with some type of cancer within the last 1-2 years alone. Survivorship is extremely different and personal to each individual and can even be separated into different descriptive terms depending on the stage that person is at within their care:
- Acute survivorship – refers to right after diagnosis or during treatment
- Extended survivorship – completion of treatment or several months post
- Permanent survivorship – after treatment has been completed and measured in years Continue Reading »
Imagine having a medical test and getting the phone call that there is something abnormal, and more testing is necessary to determine if it’s cancer. Not knowing is a very difficult emotional state. It’s likely that your body will react to this with adrenal hormones like cortisol and its fight or flight response. This leads to racing hearts and minds, difficulty sleeping, tight muscles, digestive problems, and a sense of dis-ease. If this stress response continues, it can affect every cell and organ in your body and impair your body’s ability to heal.
Fortunately, there are many things a person can do to help manage the stress related to a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Social support is essential; allow others to be involved and accept the care you need. Find ways to do the things that normally bring you peace—like physical activity, time in nature or worship services. For many people, spiritual practices or spiritual counseling are very helpful.
Physical activity is a powerful stress reducer. Our bodies are meant to move every day, so keeping as active as possible is important. On the other hand, it’s important to listen to your body, and not over-do it, especially during cancer treatment. Regular exercise can help give a sense of control and remind people of the strength of their minds and bodies. It is also proven to help prevent cancer recurrences. Continue Reading »
You may have just been told the news that no one wants to hear—you have cancer. You may feel frightened and wonder what lies ahead for you. You will need the support of your family, friends and community as you make decisions about your care and treatment process. If it is recommended that you will need chemotherapy, chances are that you are going to experience hair loss. If you are going to lose your hair during treatment, there are plenty of resources available to you for head coverings.
Some health insurance companies cover the cost of a wig or other headwear for cancer treatment patients, but if yours does not there are other options. Calumet Medical Center provides free wigs, turbans and headscarves for our chemotherapy patients; you can stop by Calumet Medical Center from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to try them on. St. Elizabeth Hospital and Mercy Medical Center also have cancer navigators that are available to help in the search of wigs or anything else that you may need throughout your journey. These resources are just a phone call away, and the staff is both friendly and knowledgeable about the process.
There are several websites that offer help finding affordable head covers, such as The American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org, or Tender Loving Care at www.tlcdirect.org. If you choose a wig, many of the salons in the area will cut and style your wig at no cost.
If you enjoy the outdoors, wigs, hats, turbans or scarves are important for protecting your head from sun exposure, especially in these hot summer months. How you look is certainly not as important as how you feel, but everyone deserves to feel confident and dignified, no matter what their health status is.
Cancer is the toughest fight many of us will ever face, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Calumet Medical Center has a cancer support group called C.A.R.E.S—Cancer Awareness, Resources, Education and Support Group. We meet the fourth Tuesday of each month. Call (800) 450-4042 ext. 2406 for more information.
Cancer can affect many areas of a person’s life; one can be challenged physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and financially. Nurse navigators have an important role in helping patients meet those challenges during their journey through cancer treatment.
The goal of the nurse navigator is to provide support at any given time during treatment. This starts on the day of diagnosis and continues through a patient’s survivorship period. Affinity Health System values the role of a navigator and offers this as a free service.
A nurse navigator helps patients by:
- Providing education on topics such as pathology, reviewing timelines for consults and treatment, pre- and post-surgery care, or reviewing information that was presented at consultations with providers.
- Connecting patients to members of the cancer team that provide resources and support, which can include oncology social workers, financial advocates, genetic counselors, dietitians and American Cancer Society representatives, to name a few.
- Educating patients and families on community resources that are available in their area. Continue Reading »