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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Posted Sep 29 2010 12:00am


So, I am not writing this article to share the latest, greatest, or newest breast cancer treatment. I don't do research on breakthrough cures. I am an oncology nurse who looks at my patients from a different perspective. I want to see the person beyond the disease. I want to care for her family, and friends, and pets. I want to view her as the sum of her parts. The holistic human being. The body, mind, and soul. This is so much more than giving chemo, or passing medications.

So, I start over 20 years ago, in a little room in Eastern NC, as a student. My patient for the day had breast cancer which had spread to her bones. All her bones. My goal for the day was to give her a relaxing bath without breaking any more bones. How gently I handled her painful body. How I caressed her skin to ease the pain. Gently turning her to wash her back, you could feel bones shift a little. I cried for a week, feeling helpless to totally ease her suffering. Through the early years of nursing school, and the early years of being a nurse, my mind goes back to caring for so many with cancer,  it didn't surprise me that one day it was all I was doing in my nursing career. Through the years I have had the privilege of knowing hundreds of women warriors, brave and strong, all fighting this disease of breast cancer. With medical advances and miracles, many of these women survive and are strong for the new warriors in the fight. Others, I am sad to say, did not receive their healing on this side of the journey. I love them all. All ages from the 20's to the 90's. I remember one very special woman with advanced metastatic breast cancer.  The cancer after her first surgery had come back and due to the recurrence, she wasn't able to have more surgery because it affected the chest wall. So, she developed an odor from the cancer, and it became so strong, she no longer left her house, except to come for her chemotherapy. A doctor I was working with at the time, suggested a very non-conventional treatment for her dressings. He suggested plain yogurt under the dressing to be changed out a few times a day. The culture cut the odor completely for awhile, and she came into the office crying one day, and hugged my neck. She had been able to go to church that Sunday, and no one avoided her. Everyone hugged her because they didn't smell her cancer. I cried right along with her. I'm not suggesting anyone do this, because I am sure it isn't evidence-based, but it sure worked for her.

A separate story has been written about the dog. In case you haven't read it, I will tell you I allowed a little dog to be brought into a dying patients room one day. The husband put the little dog in a gym bag, and bypassed all the security, and for a few hours, the dog was able to with with his master. She was in a coma, but somehow I think she knew. Looking past the disease, I wanted my patients to have more than chemotherapy.

I found a few beauticians who would go through some special training and Look Good Feel Better became a part of our program. This is an awesome program where women get to come together and get FREE makeup and skin care, all donated. A beautician runs the program and talks about skin care, make up, wigs, and scarves, while the women try on their products. It's awesome, and if your community doesn't have it, you can get it going. For more information, look up: If you have a friend or family member going through treatment, find out what you can do to help, and then just "do it". If you are going through treatment, let those around you help. We are strong lots: women. We don't need help. We are the givers. There comes a time that givers need to be receivers. So, if you have people wanting to help, let them help! I Can Cope @  is a great education program for cancer survivors and caregivers. If you don't have a local program, you can check it out online. I highly recommend this program. I taught it for years, and is a great resource.

 Don't be afraid to get a second opinion. This is your life. If you want a second opinion, don't give yourself room to look back and say I could have, would have, should have. Any good physician should not feel intimidated for you to do this. So, I am an oncology nurse. I study standards of medical treatment. I carry out orders for standard medical treatment. What I also do is study supportive integrative therapies. These other therapies are supportive in nature and include music therapy, art therapy, music therapy, goal setting, stress management, nutritional therapy, aromatherapy, and healing touch just to name a few. My philosophy is to do no harm. I see the healing virtue ( I didn't say curing) of touch, relaxation, breathing, aromatherapy, and other related natural therapies. These can be so therapeutic. I am working on trying to get a pilot study of a relaxation room for caregivers where I work. I think about what I can recommend to a patient who is having a hard time eating food. I have recipes for nutritional smoothies. As I started the article, I stated I wasn't going to talk about the latest, greatest medical treatment. I explore caring. I explore healing the mind and soul. I explore the wholeness of you.

You aren't your dis-ease. Your friend or family member is not defined by their dis-ease. Explore what can be implemented to bring about a wholeness. I can be reached through my website for questions about integrative care or taking a Wellness Inventory Assessment.

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