Hope and Help for Lung Cancer
Good Samaritan’s Lung Cancer Program supports patients with skill and caring.
No one should face lung cancer alone. Tests, treatments and side effects add to the strain of work and home demands. But where there is fear, there can also be hope.
Meet Sherry, Drexel and Joan, three women who confronted all that and more to battle lung cancer. And through the long siege, each woman had at her side the skilled, compassionate and thoroughly attentive Samaritan Cancer Center team.
A Plan for Every Aspect of Care
“The needs of patients with lung cancer are extremely complicated. There are so many aspects to their care and so much to coordinate,” says Diane Tousignant, RN, BSN, Lung Cancer Coordinator at Samaritan Cancer Center. “We work with them every step of the way.”
Good Samaritan created the Lung Cancer Program to ensure these patients receive the coordinated, multispecialty care they need as well as emotional, spiritual and practical support to contend with their disease.
Calling All Experts
Lung cancer’s diagnosis and treatment aren’t the sole province of a surgeon or oncologist. So cardiothoracic surgeon Mohey Saleh, MD, and medical oncologist Howard Gross, MD, partner to co-direct the Lung Cancer Program.
To address the complexity of lung cancer, weekly lung cancer care conferences also bring together specialists from thoracic surgery, medical and radiation oncology, pulmonary medicine, diagnostic and interventional radiology and pathology to consult on new cases.
“We evaluate every patient with this multi-specialty approach to come up with the best treatment option,” says Dr. Saleh.
In Search of New Solutions
In addition to standard treatments, Good Sam offers qualifying patients access to new treatment options through clinical trials conducted by the Dayton Clinical Oncology Program. Dr. Gross serves as its Principal Investigator.
Such trials are helping researchers better understand the molecular underpinnings of lung cancer, so they may one day tailor treatments to individual patients. “We’re not totally there yet, but we know a lot more than we did 10 years ago because the technology and knowledge have improved,” he says.
Finding Room for Hope
But lung cancer care at Good Sam is about more than science and medicine. It’s about empathy and compassion.
|Sherry Echeman a lung cancer survivor three years after diagnoses, celebrates life with a walk in Greenville City Park.
Greenville, Ohio resident Sherry Echeman recalls a moment in September, 2008 when she felt that compassion profoundly.
“It was my last day in the hospital after they removed my tumor,” she says. “They took my chest tubes out, and I saw my full incision for the first time. I freaked out and started to cry. The nurse hugged me and said not to worry, that it was just a scar and it would fade. But I felt guilt ridden. I’d smoked for 30 years. I said, ‘I’m crying because I did this to myself.’ She hugged me again and said. ‘No honey, there is no way you can take this on yourself. You have to let this go, especially for your recovery.’ From the very beginning I was told it wasn’t my fault, and there is room to hope.”
There were times – when she was nauseated and losing her hair after chemo and radiation – that finding that hope was difficult. Today, cancerfree for two years, Sherry recalls with gratitude her Good Sam team that was always there with encouragement.
Beyond the Physical
Because cancer’s impact reaches far beyond physical effects, Cancer Center team members also include a dietitian, a social worker and a spiritual care advisor. They can provide support in a special way that even loved ones can’t.
“Sometimes at home they don’t understand what you’re going through,” says Drexel Spain of Trotwood. Drexel is still on her treatment journey, having recently completed chemo and radiation treatment. “When you go to Good Sam, they know. If you’re having a bad day and you’re a little crabby, they understand. It’s a comfort.”
|Having recently completed chemo and radiation for lung cancer, Drexel Spain again enjoys grocery shopping.
Diagnosed last spring, Englewood resident Joan McCray is discovering the new rhythms of everyday life that come with having chemotherapy and radiation – and strength in the team behind her. “They understand that when you’re going through all this a little friendliness and a smile helps a lot.”
A Guide for Living with Cancer
The Good Sam lung cancer team tapped into that understanding when they created A Journey to Hope and Healing, a reference guide for their patients.
“Lung cancer happens to normal, responsible people who still need to be a spouse, to be a parent, to go to work,” explains Lung Cancer Coordinator Diane Tousignant, who helped develop the latest edition. The guide offers insights from the team’s years of experience helping patients manage as life – now with lung cancer – goes on. For example, there’s advice on forming a family support group and resources for patients facing discrimination at work.
There’s also plenty of practical information. “The book helps you pace yourself,” says Drexel. “It gives you insight into what’s coming, like how to counteract side effects you could have, and it helps you schedule your doctors’ appointments.”
By bringing all these resources to bear on lung cancer, Good Sam is making a difference: one patient at a time.
As Sherry sums it up: “Miracles happen here, and that’s the truth.”
The Race to Early Detection
|A year after her lung cancer diagnosis, Joan McCray takes time out between treatments to get exercise with her husband, David McCray, and their American Bulldog Buster.
Finding cancer before it spreads in the body is often critical to survival. More than half of breast cancer cases and nine out of 10 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in this early stage. Not so for lung cancer. In five out of six cases, the cancer has already spread, earning it the dubious distinction of being America’s deadliest cancer.
A large-scale National Institutes of Health study is currently underway to determine the effectiveness of using low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to screen smokers and catch the disease in its earliest stages.
<< Samaritan HealthTalk Spring 2011