In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Hospice East Rand nurses Heilie Turner and Lindiwe Dlomo shared their experiences about cancer and share advice on how to help those who are in a treatment programme.
Q: What are the effects of breast cancer on the patient and family?
A: Patients become afraid and anxious from the cancer diagnoses given. Most of them say they had almost lost hope of surviving because of the severe side effects they experienced from chemotherapy which has such debilitating effects on the body. It weakens the immune system and causes severe fatigue. Family takes a toll when they see their loved one suffering from the pain and these side effects and they feel helpless as they don’t know how to help their loved one. They become emotional and sometimes as a palliative care nurse you have to recognise where they are in this journey of life and not take emotions personally. They have many questions which need to be answered and the only person available to release their emotional turmoil is the nurse.
Q: How do you help your patients physically and mentally?
A: I consult my patients according to their physical conditions either daily, twice a week, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to monitor if symptoms and pain are under control. At Hospice East Rand, I manage pain immediately to provide relief at that moment and contact our doctor to review medication if the current medication is not aiding pain management. I counsel and reassure patients and their families by explaining all the changes happening to the patient and I answer any queries they have and just walk the journey with them, reassuring them that I am available for anything they do not understand. Most importantly, I like my patients to have a voice and control in their lives by involving them in decision-making regarding their care.
Turner joined palliative care because her mother is a breast cancer survivor.
Q: How can others be considerate towards cancer patients?
A: At HER we use a holistic approach when treating our patients. Holistic meaning: treatment of the whole person taking their mental, physical and social factors into account rather than just the symptoms of the disease.
- Use social media to create awareness, share your own stories.
- Wear a pink ribbon in October and tell people more about breast cancer when they ask about the ribbon.
- Arrange an event, like Walk for Cancer and get donations for every km, then donate the money to Hospice.
- Encourage friends and family to go for a mammogram or breast exam.
Q: What lessons have you learned along the way regarding cancer?
A: Each patient is different and needs to be treated as such. We can never know “how long” a patient has to live. Only God knows that. Family members will Google symptoms so it is best to guide them in the correct direction as to where to find answers. I don’t always have the answers. Sometimes, I need to tell the family and patient that I will need to find out and come back to them with an answer. Every patient and family member starts going through the grieving process from the day of diagnosis. This means everyone won’t be at the same stage and you have to deal with each individual’s emotions.
Originally appeared on Benonicitytimes.co.za