Here’s an interview with an oncology nurse practitioner to get ‘if you were my mom advice’ to have a strong immunity during breast cancer treatment.
We all know the do’s & don’ts in the areas where we work. We know the things that make the whole process work the best. And the things that throw a kink in the system.
And, we know what can help people have the best experience, find the greatest value, or an awesome outcome. So, whenever it’s appropriate, we make sure to tell our friends and family our insider knowledge – how to interact within our work or service area to ensure they have the greatest quality service, product, or experience.
We share honest & helpful advice – like we are talking to our mom.
So, wouldn’t it be great to have that insider expertise while we’re making a decision related to healthcare services? The ability to tap into a healthcare providers’ years of experience and specific knowledge for their area and hear them say,
“If it were me, I’d do it this way.”
“I’d want my mom to do ‘X’ too because that’s how to get the best outcome.”
“If you want the best customer service, you need to make sure to say ‘X’ at this specific time.”
This is a series of articles with the intent to offer that experience. The helpful, loving ‘if you were my mom advice’.
How to Have Strong Immunity During Breast Cancer Treatment
Today, we’re interviewing Susan Grogan, to get a little bit of oncology-related insider knowledge. She is a nurse practitioner (NP-C), with a certification in oncology/hematology, and works at Mercy Cancer Hematology in Springfield, MO.
Thank you for sharing your expertise through this interview, Susan!
Susan, tell us a little about your most common patient.
The most common patient I see is a person with the diagnosis of breast cancer.
Can you provide a description of the patient’s physical condition?
Typically my patients are middle-aged females who are super busy, at least moderately overweight, and have a sedentary lifestyle.
She doesn’t exercise, is typically mostly eating processed foods, lots of fast foods, and has a low water consumption.
Her sleep is often disrupted and she has constant stress in her life.
Sometimes the women are using estrogen.
Many times they are shocked when I first see them. They don’t know how they ended up with cancer. But, so often before our visit, they have gone to a health food store. They buy a lot of vitamins and supplements.
How does a patient get a referral to your clinic?
Usually, they have gone for a screening mammogram, or they or their provider has found a lump on a breast exam. A biopsy has been done and a cancer diagnosis has been confirmed.
What does a typical plan of treatment look like?
I discuss a treatment plan with the patients early on. The treatment plan is based on several things. Treatment is specific to and dependent on:
- Type and stage of cancer
- Family history
- Other health issues
- Home or work environment
- Family support
- Driving distance and sometimes among other factors.
It is typically at least one, or a combination of the following treatment options:
- Sometimes chemotherapy.
- Commonly hormonal blocking agents can also be used.
Use of Faith Can Provide Strong Immunity During Breast Cancer Treatment
As appropriate I will discuss using faith for support. Some already lean on their faith and others need to use their faith as a way to reduce stress & to build a strong immunity during breast cancer treatment.
Some patients experience an extreme amount of stress because they lack ‘usual’ emotional support sources. They:
- Have already lost their spouse
- Are a single mom
- Do not have a church family
- Do not have children living close by.
So, if they are open to hearing about prayer and faith I talk about it with them. I tell them prayer is the most important thing to help them through this.
I get to see patients before they start their chemotherapy for the day. If they are nervous or tearful, (especially if it’s a curable diagnosis) I comfort them by reminding them how they can use their experience in the valley to help others.
I remind them that their hair will grow back, their taste will return, and their nausea will go away. They will get through it and back to doing the things they like to do.
Finally, I encourage them to mark their treatments on a calendar, so they can see how many treatments they have left. I always tell them that we will get them through it. I encourage and offer prayer and support.
Based on your opinion, what are 3 things you wish your patients knew about your service or area so they would experience greater value or fewer barriers?
Well, honestly I wish patients were aware of cancer screenings and prevention.
Get mammogram and colonoscopy screening regularly. Why? Because if you can catch cancer early, you can sometimes avoid chemotherapy, or catch it at a curable stage with an easier treatment.
Diet and exercise are the key preventatives YOU can do.
Stress management is important to keep up your immunity.
Based on your opinion, what things do you wish your patients would do when using your services so they feel their best, have a strong immunity during breast cancer treatment, and experience the best outcome possible.
When you are getting chemotherapy, exercise is the best strategy to help prevent fatigue-even though you feel too tired to exercise, it is helpful with fatigue!
Infection control is essential while undergoing chemotherapy: Things like handwashing, cooking food properly, avoid gardening without gloves, avoid cat litter, avoid people (at church or work).
Outcomes are getting better because of the additional treatment options. Samples of cancer tissue, or the patient’s blood are frequently checked for targeted therapy. This can include treatment with pills or IV therapy.
Immunotherapy is now an option in many types of cancer.
What are 1-5 website resources you provide to your clients?
We give patients two pages of reliable websites for cancer. We tell them to be careful with information without clinical research or data.
What is recommended after your services?
After treatment is complete, I do a survivorship visit. We discuss ways to have a strong immunity and be healthy. Our discussion typically includes healthy behaviors including diet, exercise, mindfulness and social support. I talk a lot about healthy behaviors because this can result in less reoccurrence of the cancer and improved survival.
They need to eat healthy foods.
I talk about avoiding simple sugars and white flour, eating foods in moderation, bringing colorful foods (fruits & vegetables) into their diet, avoiding char on grilled meats and avoiding processed meats.
I share diet recommendations from the Mayo Clinic. And, I tell them to eat a Mediterranean type of diet which include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc. Some healthcare practitioners are starting to recommend the Keto diet as well.
They need to move around.
I strongly encourage them to get 150 minutes to exercise a week. They can do that by getting 30 minutes a day or three 60 minute periods of exercise or movement.
I tell them they need to at least walk. Put it on their schedule-make it part of what they do.
Some people really struggle with it, although some will do well. I hear them say things like, my hip hurts I have arthritis or I’m tired so can’t exercise. But, I just keep reminding them of the value of exercise and how it helps treat arthritis and helps with fatigue.
I give them very small ideas. Walk to the mailbox. Walk around inside house if cold outside.
Eating healthy and walking are the two biggest things they can do to prevent cancer recurrence and help with fatigue.
They also need to manage stress levels.
I talk to them about mindfulness: meditation, prayer, quietness, rest and stretching.
Fear, anxiety, and worry is normal. But, I help them recognize it is ok to get professional help if it is needed, for example, if they become depressed, etc.
Sleep is so important. I go a lot into sleep hygiene. I encourage a dark cool room with no electronics. If they wake up at night – I tell them to read but not ‘on’ something – not on iPad w blue light. If they have an Echo, I tell them to ask Alexa to play crickets on a sleep timer for 1 ½ hr.
They can put lavender oil in a Diffuser.
Anything else you would like to provide?
Please get cancer screenings and preventative screenings. You need to get an overall colonoscopy by age 45. If you’re a woman you need to get your pap smear and mammograms! Get a flu shot. Check your cholesterol regularly.
Cancer doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Generally, most people thrive with social support. We need friends and family because we do very well when we do it together, like when we walk together 3 times a week. It’s best to work on being healthy together.
Thank you so much, Susan!
(Please note – this information does not guarantee a specific outcome or experience. Also, because there is not a patient-provider relationship in place, it is impossible to give patient-specific advice and is not intended to be a plan of care or treatment. This information is intended to be used as a complement to your personal healthcare provider’s recommendations, your observations, and research.)