Patients have praised the support they’ve received from cancer nurse specialists during their diagnosis and treatment.
With expertise and knowledge, cancer specialist nurses (CNS) are able to offer support and information for patients from their diagnosis through to treatment, being able to advocate for them and explain each stage and what each treatment means.
Patricia Lever was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April 2021 and then operated on robotically. She said she is forever grateful for the support of her cancer nurse specialist team.
She added: “When I was diagnosed it was a difficult time. You’re trying to come to terms with being told you have cancer. Nurse specialists are there to hold your hand through that process when you may not understand all the terminology.
“They’re there at the meeting when your surgeon discusses the options and diagnosis, there during pre-ops and they’re there at the end of the phone if you have any questions.”
Cancer specialist nurses are being celebrated as part of a national awareness day about their role in supporting patients as well as the career opportunities for nurses who may wish to move towards becoming a CNS.
Joel Ramsay was diagnosed with a brain tumour in May 2019. Through his diagnosis and treatment he was supported by specialist nurses at Ipswich Hospital.
He said: “The diagnosis and everything that followed was the most difficult part of my life, but it was made a lot easier with the help of cancer nurse specialists.
“It’s a period of your life that is daunting, so to have a nurse there you can pick up a phone to book an appointment with is so important and it was great to be able to sit down face-to-face and understand what was happening.”
Maurice Newbolt is now the secretary of ESNEFT’s urology cancer support group following his treatment for prostate cancer in 2002. He said: “Their role is vitally important for cancer patients, their care through their treatment but also for many years after.”
The role means CNS have very specialist knowledge on one type of cancer, from prostate cancer, breast cancer or bowel cancer. A patient will be assigned a CNS from the early stages of their journey to support them but also their family too.
ESNEFT cancer specialist nurse Rachel Duncombe-Anderson said it’s a privilege to be a CNS: “Every day is different and I find myself problem solving constantly. I cannot express the privilege it is to work on behalf of patients, at possibly some of the most difficult times of their lives.”
Alison Garnham and Caroline Platten
Alison Garnham and Caroline Platten are both CNS working in gynaecology. They said working through the pandemic when patients were exceptionally worried about being able to have life-saving treatment has been especially difficult – but they wouldn’t do any other job!
The duo added: “It was a very scary time – we had women with cancer who we had to reassure every single day that they would get their treatment. If we were scared, how were they feeling?”
Alison and Caroline said their role is varied and changeable, meeting patients coming in for surgery through to helping organise appointments outside of hospital for people needing support so they can have treatment. “We’ve had to find kennels for pets” they said.
“We strive every day to make the devastating moment a woman finds out she has cancer a little easier. We build a rapport with them, we know their stories, we know their families and unfortunately, we are there at the end sometimes.”
CNS Clare Leppich agreed and added: “Being a cancer nurse specialist is a very rewarding career. Knowing I can and have made a positive difference to a patient’s situation is the reason I love being a CNS. Patients and their loved ones are grateful to have someone at the end of a phone for advice and support.”
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