My role as a clinical nurse specialist in neuro-oncology is all about supporting patients with primary brain cancers. Although it's a rare cancer, it affects all areas of a patient’s life, and their family's.
I’m perhaps the first person a patient meets after diagnosis who has time to sit down with them and give them some information. I’ll say, ‘Just tell me how you feel at the moment. Tell me what you’ve remembered. What do you want me to go through?’
If it’s too much for them to take in at that moment, I ask if they’d just like to take the Macmillan information and come back to me. I make sure they’ve got my contact details, so I can really be the person to help them find the answers they need.
I also take daily phone calls from patients, which may involve talking to GPs or district nurses or the community palliative care teams. In addition I direct patients to other services, such as benefits, and regularly support people with letters and so on when they have concerns about returning to work.
I have my own nurse-led clinic and I review all patients who are having treatment on a weekly basis. This helps reduce waiting times in the clinic.
Patients at our hospital in Northampton have surgery in Oxford, which further complicates their care. I have built excellent links with the team in Oxford, so that patients have someone to contact there before and after surgery. Then they come back to us in Northampton for further treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Brain cancer affects patients - and their families - in so many ways. From not being able to drive for a while, to issues with work and other side effects, such as problems with memory or speech.
I find it so rewarding to be alongside patients and families, to help ensure their care is properly coordinated. Patients just need to know there's someone they can contact if they have any concerns.
Patients often say they feel better for having spoken to me, and it’s valuable to me to help them with this. I had one patient who said I always made him cry, but he said it was in a good way. He really wanted to get things off his chest and he found he felt better for having spoken about those things. Cancer can affect all areas of life, but I’m there at every stage.