Oncology RN with cancer

  1. I have been an Oncology nurse for 9 yrs. I work on an inpatient medical oncology unit. I have a great passion for what I do. I learned early on what I needed to do to provide great care & not burn out. Most of our patients are admitted for symtpom and/or disease management. We often see patients for a couple of years before they succumb to their cancer or one of the side effects related to treatment. We don't usually see the patients that get all or most of their treatment on an outpatient basis & get cured of their cancer.

    I was diagnosed with rectal cancer last October. I have incredible support from work, family, friends, the docs, etc. Even with all that support, it's not the same as talking to another oncology nurse who has had cancer. It's very strange to be a patient & yet have the knowledge base I have. It has definately had its plusses & minuses. I know more about oncology than some of the nurses in my medical oncologist's office. In fact, I trained two of them as new grads several years ago.

    Anyway, I would love to talk to other oncology nurses who have been diagnosed with cancer. What things caught you off guard? How did you choose an oncologist/surgeon/radiologist, etc? Did you attend a support group? Was it helpful? What would you have done differently? Did you tell the people you work with? Why or why not? Anything else you want to add, say, etc. I would also like to talk to anyone else who has had a nurse or physician coworker with cancer. How did it effect you?
    Sorry this is a little long. I write the way I talk...to much
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  2. 15 Comments

  3. by   jnette
    I read this with a heavy heart.

    I'm not what you're seeking. No words of advice, no colleagues to refer you to.
    I'm hoping someone here will soon be able to lead you in the direction you are looking to go.

    I just want to say I'm sorry to hear of your condition, that I wish you WELL, and that I care.

    Hugs to you,
    Jnette
  4. by   renerian
    I worked oncology but so far do not have cancer. I am so sorry your facing this and I hope this thread finds someone you can connect with.

    Hugs,

    renerian
  5. by   niteshiftnurse
    I am a nurse and had lung CA 3 years ago. My situation was a little different because a doctor had known and never told me. I didn't find out till a year and half later. I was pretty devistated. No signs or symptoms. I had surgery, but no chemo or radiation. I did see an oncologist, but was told chemo wasn't necessary. How did it affect me??? After the initial shock and the surgery, I went back to work 6 months later. I find work is the best thing for me as I can go to work and help others....I work on oncology floor plus other specialities, and if I can make just a little difference in someone's life, I'm thrilled. I also have the opinion that there are other people worse off than me. I love my job and love what I do. Working seems to keep your mind off the cancer, as you really don't have time to think about yourself. I was just diagnosed with MS. My plate is so full, its running off the sides and I'm stepping in it, but I still go to work every day and try to make a difference in someone else's life. Hang in there, it WILL get better
  6. by   lgoins
    Thanks for your words of support & encouragement. I struggled so much with my diagnosis at first. I was off work for 7 weeks after my surgery. I'm on continuous 5FU via a Port. This has minimized some of the more drastic side effects of receiving bolus 5FU.

    I didn't start chemo until almost 3 months after surgerh. Then I had chemo for 6 weeks; 4 weeks off; chemo & radiation combined for 6 weeks; 4 weeks off; and I'm now halfway through 2 months of chemo. I've continued to work through chemo & radiation.

    I thought I was dealing fairly well with the emotional & psychological aspects. I know I don't have it as altogether as I pretend I do. Work does help me keep my mind off things. Although I should probably spend a little more time in journaling to get through some of the heavy stuff.

    thanks...lindi
  7. by   renerian
    Lindi I am bet you are very tired with working through all that. I know I have seen other posts from other nurses who faced similar situations. I hope they respond here to. Have you thought about counseling to help you gather your thoughts and cope with this?

    renerian
  8. by   debbyed
    You have my thoughts of encouragement and wishes of wellness. From reading your posts I'm sure you do portray an image of being "put together and in control" and I am sure you are wonderful support for your patients.

    I have to wonder however....who is your support?? Family, friends and co-workers all have their places in your support network but you sound as if you may need more.

    No matter what challenges we face in this life there are always others facing the same challenges. When we are with family and friends we often (even with out knowing it) put on a "good face". We are nuturers by nature. By attending a support group conposed of others walking the same path as you, you may be able to drop the "good face". Unconditional support is just as important as unconditional love.
  9. by   BernieO
    lindi
    I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last Aug. I also worked through chemo except when my Neutrophils were too low and the risk of infection too great. Cancer is truly a life altering disease. Also I find being a nurse that I comfort others when they hear of my cancer diagnosis. I still have the nurse instincts. I also approach my cancer as an academic. I research everything and ask questions often. I think I hide behind the research so I don't have to face the unknown aspects of a cancer patient's future.

    Keep in mind. Many people survive cancer. We can be survivors.
  10. by   lgoins
    Thanks Bernie - I do believe I will survive my cancer - most of the time. There are days it's harder, like when I'm caring for a patient with metastatic rectal cancer. I want to know what stage their disease was when it was diagnosed; did they have radiation; and what was their follow-up, etc.

    I know I'm tired of being in treatment. The end is in sight. I have about 3 weeks left of chemotherapy & then I'm done. Yippee!

    I never did hook up with a support group. The ones that are offered at my hospital are full of my patients. I do have a great Cancer Counselor. She's been available to me since the beginning. I worked with her on how to tell my staff about my cancer diagnosis. She's been a great source of support and helped me work through some of the emotional baggage that comes with cancer. She was especially helpful during the time I thought I was handling all the psychological & emotional stuff. I journaled some, but never truly got into it.

    I read a great true-life story on the ONS web site,. It was written by an experienced oncology nurse. It was his account of being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment. He has a wonderful writing gift. I was able to put many things in perspective. I've gone back & read his journaling several times because it always has something new to tell me.

    Every day's an adventure...lindi
  11. by   BernieO
    Today is June 1. is National Cancer Survivors Day.
    Happy Survivors Day to All.
  12. by   Audreyfay
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. :kiss
  13. by   chae
    Thanks for the advice Igoins about my grand Dad, My prayers are with you and your family. God bless and strengthen you in body, mind and spirit.
  14. by   PJRNC2
    Dear Lindi, Thank you for sharing even though you were looking for information you gave much encouragement for me.I am not an Oncology nurse(currently with Psych) I may need to PM you, for this Friday I find out the path report from my colonoscopy. I can see the need to get info from oncology Nurses who have 'been there'. I've remembered many of my AP resection patients I cared for in ICU in the late 60's and early 70's (yes, in the old days AP's went to ICU for atl least 2 days in our Hosp.) Let us know when you have completed your Chemo (I'm interested if you had been taking an asprin a day. yrs. ago a study came out -infro gathered from nurses that an asprin a day would decrease colon Ca- I did this for many months but had to stop in prep for Bx. of Breast 2 yers. ago and never really got started up again)

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