excellence in Oncology:
our Patients, Our Passion

. :  Archive for April 2015

Lianne Germain

It is difficult for me to ascertain the reason why I am passionate about oncology. It could be a number of reasons. My mother had metastatic breast cancer when I was 15, and my uncle currently suffers from advanced multiple myeloma. But I wouldn’t attribute it to that. I think my passion comes from seeing the strength in people, helping them get the most valuable currency in the cancer journey – time. It is very rewarding work and strongly revolves around quality of life. I’d like to tell a short story about one experience as a new nurse that made me want to specialize in oncology.

In 2013, I was a new oncology nurse in Northern Ontario. I took a full time position on a medical oncology unit simply due to the vacancy.
Being a new grad, I took anything I could get. My patient was an extraordinary fellow- a tall elderly man who was very kind. He had a soft voice and was one of those patients who always thanked the nurses. He knew just how hard we worked on the unit. He had very little family. More specifically, he had one daughter who never visited. I’ll admit, the family dynamics from what I knew were a little different but I still had a soft spot for him. He lived in the
hospital long term because he had no where else to go, and that in itself is a long story.

Sometimes, if I had the time, I would sit with him while he ate a meal just to give him company. He wasn’t the only one I did this for, but I particularly enjoyed doing this with him. He told me stories about the abuse he was subject to as a child, about running away from home, about being raised by Inuit people, about rebellion, and about the life of a professional artist. He spoke a lot about loss of independence and what it’s like to lose the ability to do what you love most. As time passed, he became increasingly frail. He had a debilitating disease combined with cancer, shortness of breath and frequent falls. He was eventually confined to a wheelchair. He spent his time writing (rather, typing) a book because even picking up a paint brush was painful. Sometimes if I was lucky, he would read or recite a passage to me while I provided him with care. He very proudly showed the nurses photos of his artwork – oils on leather canvas. Years ago, he had sold the entire collection to a Chinese collector for millions.

I always told him how much I loved his artwork and about my “lost creativity” which I described as having been artistic at a younger age only to have “lost it” somewhere along the way. And so one day, he gave me homework. He sent me to the dollar store to buy a pack of brushes, a canvas and some acrylic paints. He instructed me to set up and just begin painting, even with no ideas or guidance. I surprised myself with what I painted. I later learned that he was my guidance in my artistic journey and helped me find what I had lost. Years later, that inspiration sits upon my wall on a medium sized dollar store canvas. And today, I still paint.

Karen Woodworth & Terra Thibault – Capital Health Cancer Care Program, Halifax, Nova Scotia


Terra Thibault and Karen Woodworth

Transitioning from active treatment to survivorship can be a distressing time for many people. Luckily several passionate oncology nurses that work in the Capital Health Cancer Care Program in Halifax were happy to become involved in a new patient education initiative called “Living Beyond Cancer- What Happens Now ”. The purpose of the monthly session is to help  provide information to patients and families on what they can expect as they transition out of active cancer treatment and into recovery and survivorship. ask google . It provides opportunity for patients to learn more about what happens after cancer treatment, to ask the cancer team questions about their follow up care and to meet other cancer survivors.

The 3 hour session is held for registered participants in Halifax and streamed live via telehealth to hospitals across Nova Scotia.  An oncology nurse helps facilitate the class and several oncology nurses take turns presenting on the late effects of chemotherapy and cancer treatment. Topics such a sexual health, brain fog  and hormonal therapy are also covered by nursing.

The session is presented by a variety of health care providers including oncology nurses, radiation therapists, social workers, physiotherapists, dietitians and spiritual care providers… and is a true demonstration of people working together to help meet the needs of our patients and families!

Robyn Gleason – Mackenzie Health hospital Richmond hill

In November 2014 it was announced that Mackenzie health hospital would be accepting nominations for the first presidents kudos award. So the physicians in our oncology clinic started the process of creating a nomination package. They each wrote a letter about the wonderful staff in our clinic as well as incorporating letters and comments from some of our patients. Much to our wonderful surprise the Kudos award committee selected our oncology clinic over 14 other units in our hospital.

Our oncology nurses are a very compassionate, dedicated hard working group and this was well deserved. Patients enjoy seeing the award and our photos displayed in the wait room.

Happy oncology nursing day to all, especially to Cheryl, Melinda, Marie Eve, Jessica and Robyn.

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