On the front lines Dee Martell is an oncology nurse at Downtown Naples Hospital. She keeps a little button that says “It’s not sad” to underscore her belief that a cancer unit doesn’t need to be a depressing place. “I think that’s a misconception,” she says. “I have people always asking me, ‘You’re so sensitive. How can you do oncology?’ But if you had cancer, would you want a grumpy nurse? And cancer patients are absolutely the sweetest patients in the world.” That’s not to say that her job isn’t chal- lenging much of the time. Her unit handles about 80 percent oncology and 20 percent medical/surgical patients, and people come in with various types and stages of cancers. Some with colon cancer only need surgery. Some with breast cancer that was caught early enough only need lumpectomies.
“There is one question that everyone in this field is asked: How do you do it? I think all of us—physicians, nurses, everyone who works in this field—have a uniquely binding goal: to cure cancer. This keeps our lives in perspective. It gives us hope and purpose.” Not surprisingly, working in an oncol- ogy unit can be a taxing experience. The close relationships can make it dif- ficult when a patient is obviously suf- fering or doesn’t make it. That’s when the staff members rely on one another for support. “One of my philosophies is that I let the staff tell me when they need time off,” Theroux says. “Vacations are very important. We also have groups of people who go out together. There are a lot of bonding opportunities. This is a community, and we support each other. And we take time for the small things.”
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Advice From the Caregivers T hrough their years of caring
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for those with cancer, oncology specialists have seen firsthand the kinds of lifestyle choices that can help ease treatment cycles
and improve life quality afterward. For Susan Theroux, NCH’s director of oncology services, the 16-plus years she has spent in the field have prompted her to make changes in her own life. “My personal journey has led me to become a vegan,” she says. “I think it’s the healthiest route to take.” Theroux doesn’t expect everyone to make drastic changes, but she does advise the adoption of healthier choices: stopping smoking, engaging in regular activity, eating moderately and sensibly, moderating alcohol use. Deborah Sousa, a certified infusion therapy nurse also certified in oncology, agrees that nutrition plays a vital role. The body, she explains, is willing to do its part to try to heal. Giving it good fuel makes sense. She also advises keep- ing a positive and open attitude. “Think about one step at a time,” she says. “Ask as many questions as you possibly can. Be open with your feelings. If you find information on the Internet, print it out and bring it in so we can talk about it.” Above all, remember that treatments today do work. “I have faith in the medi- cal system,” Sousa says, “because I’ve seen it work over and over again.” Susan Theroux
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Naples Health | JULY-SEPTEMBER 2010
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