“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.
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 »
Nutrition is an important part of remaining healthy for everyone, but for individuals receiving cancer treatment, nutrition is critical. Side effects of treatment—such as nausea or decreased appetite—can make eating a healthy, well-balanced diet challenging. While not all foods work for everyone, below is a list of foods to assist in maintaining adequate nutrition when fighting through the side effects of cancer treatment.
- Eggs – Extra protein may be necessary at times during treatment and eggs are a great source for it, packing in seven grams per egg. Egg yolk is also rich in vitamins D and E. In some studies, vitamin E, an antioxidant, was shown to protect the body from the powerful toxins of cancer drugs that cause side effects.
- Ginger – Chemotherapy treatments are known for causing nausea and vomiting. From ginger supplements to ginger ale, ginger has been found to help reduce chemotherapy side effects.
- Soy – Soy contains a phytoestrogen called Genistein, which studies show to be toxic to cancer cells. Genistein may also assist in making chemotherapy work faster by helping the drugs kill tumor cells or inhibit further dividing. Sources of soy include tofu, soy flour, soy protein isolates and some dietary supplements. Discuss adding soy to your diet with your provider, as there are some contradictory findings with its efficacy. Continue Reading »
Approximately one-third of cancer patients seek out complementary and alternative medicine. There are no proven cures for cancer in alternative medicine, but there are therapies that are proven to help with symptoms and side effects. I encourage people to use the best of both worlds — evidence-based treatments within conventional medicine as well as complementary medicine.
The complementary medicine treatments with the best evidence and fewest risks are the mind-body therapies and acupuncture. However, herbal medicines and vitamins should not be used without a physician’s guidance since they can interact with chemotherapy.
There are many types of mind-body therapies including yoga, tai chi, meditation, breathing exercises, guided imagery, relaxation training, prayer, music therapy and hypnosis. Many of these have been shown in clinical studies to help reduce stress and fatigue, improve the immune system, and help with sleep and mood. We offer many classes such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery and diaphragmatic breathing to help people explore these techniques. Read here for a list of fall classes that are offered through Affinity Health System. Continue Reading »