July - September 2010 Edition: Naples Health

Patients prosper most when treated for their emotional needs as well as for their disease. Photography by Brian Tietz

HANKS TO advances in treatment and early detection, a cancer diagno- sis isn’t neces- sarily the death sentence it once was. But there’s

best people for the right reasons. They’re compassionate, love life and laugh harder than anyone. They have a good perspective on what life is all about.” Like many of her staff, Theroux was drawn to cancer care through a personal connection. While she was in nursing school, her mother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Although her mother didn’t survive, the experience left Theroux with a desire to learn more about cancer. At this point, she is pas- sionate about the field of oncology and finding the best treatments. “We have a great team of people here in Naples,” she says. “Medical oncolo- gists, radiation oncologists, surgeons. Everyone on the team works together to provide each patient as much of a cure as possible. We have a weekly tumor conference where we talk about specific cases: What’s the chance of a cure for this patient? And we’re seeing people living longer and longer with certain cancers. “I also want to give credit to the people who do it every day: the nurses, the techs, the secretaries and everyone who supports us,” Theroux continues.

“We couldn’t do what we do for patients without them.” Theroux admits that a cancer diagno- sis can prompt a lot of fear in people. Patients often come in concerned and confused about their treatment options and unsure of possible side effects or even what their outcome is expected to be. As a result, her staff spends considerable time comforting patients and explaining all the “unknowns” they are facing. “When people are willing to fight their cancer, they need to know they have a whole team behind them,” she notes. The intensive care that’s given means that close relationships often develop between patient and caregiver. “I’ve seen nurses take patients’ clothes home and wash them for them,” Theroux says. “The entire staff was invited to the wed- ding of one of our leukemia patients.” The best of times come when a patient survives and thrives—and then comes back just for a visit. “To see former patients walk onto the unit when you didn’t know if they would ever walk off—it’s so rewarding,” Theroux says.

little doubt such a diagnosis can still turn one’s life upside down. Anger and despair about the illness intertwine with fear and confusion over treatment options, until a patient feels totally overwhelmed. Fortunately, oncology tends to be a medical area where help appears all around, as cancer patients in this area well know. Oncology nurses and wait staff members can help to ensure that the entire person (and even the family) is cared for—not just the disease. An oncology director’s perspective “Oncology is one of those fields that you don’t choose; it chooses you,” says Susan Theroux, NCH’s director of oncol- ogy services. “It typically attracts the

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JULY-SEPTEMBER 2010 | Naples Health

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