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Supporting Your Loved One Through Cancer

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Today, we are focusing on the partners of cancer patients. We hear one couple's story and Ursula Courtney of ARC will give advice for those of you at home who may be dealing with a similar situation.

ARC is a registered charity offering professional support to people affected by cancer and those who care for them. The support is holistic and complements primary medical treatment with education and psychological care.


Ursula Courtney
Ursula Courtney trained as a nurse at the Mater Hospital and spent many happy years there in a variety of roles. In 1990 Ursula Courtney received her Diploma in Oncology Nursing from University College Dublin and over the next seven years, she continued to work with patients and families affected by cancer. Having obtained a Diploma in Family Planning as well as a Diploma in Nursing Management from the Royal College of Surgeons, Ursula was the first student accepted by the Department of Nursing and Midwifery in the Faculty of Medicine to be accepted to undertake a Masters degree without a primary degree. She was conferred with a Masters in Medical Science from U.C.D. in 1997.

In December 1997, Ursula accepted the position as Director of Services at ARC Cancer Support Centre in Dublin which has been recognized by the Department of Health as the blueprint of community based cancer care throughout Ireland. Ursula's contribution to promoting the extended role of nursing in relation to psychosocial cancer care in Ireland has been considerable and she was recently elected as Vice-Chairperson of the All- Ireland Psychology Group (IPOG). She has presented at many world conferences and has been the recipient of previous national and international awards for her presentations to patients, carers, nurses and other health care professionals.

Last month Ursula Courtney was awarded the Robert Tiffany Lectureship. Robert Tiffany was the initiator of the Biennial International Conference on Cancer Nursing and was recognized as an inspirational leader in cancer nursing. The intention of the named lecture is to honour those who have a similar capacity to innovate, advocate and inspire cancer nurses of today and of the future.

This is the fourth time the Award has been conferred in over twenty years and the first time such an Award has been given to an Irish nurse. It is a wonderful recognition of international achievement for cancer nursing in Ireland. Ursula was nominated for the award by her cancer nursing peers in Ireland in the Irish Association of Nurses in Oncology (IANO) and delivered her Award lecture "Holistic Cancer Nursing: Challenges for Cancer Nurses" at the recent World Cancer Nursing Conference in Singapore in August this year.

Tom and Marcella Doyle
This is about 'Supporting your loved one', as often the partners and family members are overlooked and given little help.

Tom has AML Leukemia, which is ....

"Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), AML is the most common acute leukemia affecting adults, and its incidence increases with age."

Definition of leukemia: Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream. Adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. This type of cancer usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated. Normally, the bone marrow makes blood stem cells (immature cells) that develop into mature blood cells over time

It is very important that acute leukemia be treated right away. Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, and the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body. This is the most common way to treat AML in adults

Tom was diagnosed on the 20th July over a year ago (2weeks after he retired), and was brought straight into hospital. His first round of chemo didn't work, as he has a very advanced and aggressive form of AML.
He is currently in remission, but his wife Marcella says they have to "wait and see".

Marcella - "Each patient stands alone, with this type of leukemia". She says it all happened so fast they did not have time to think too much or involve family that early.
She was a lot more positive at the beginning, but when he didn't initially respond to
chemo it was very hard on them.
ADVICE from Marcella: She read a lot about healthy eating and diets, and changed what he ate. She feels reading up on what can help is a positive start.


Why are partners often overlooked?

Partners of cancer patients:
. It is a very traumatic time for partners who feel they have to "be brave" and appear to be able to cope.

. Many ignore their own health issues as their full attention is on the ill partner.

. There are the work, financial, social fallouts to partners from a cancer diagnosis.

. Coping with phone calls, texts, having tea and biscuits available at the drop of a hat, giving the same information so many times to different people

. Concerned friends and families usually ask about the person with cancer but few actually ask how the partner is coping and feeling.

. For those who are a couple this can be hurtful too as they can feel very separated by the illness and not just with hospital admissions etc.

. It is a very scary time for everyone and partners (male and female) very often have to adopt additional roles in the family without very much support. Some would say they hardly have time to have a relaxing bath - there is so little "me" time.

Advice to patient and partner:
1. Four ears are better than two - bring someone for appointments at the hospital
2. Write down all your questions as you remember them
3. Talk and listen to each other - same feelings from different perspectives
4. Find ARC or your nearest Cancer Support Centre - and ask for help
5. Accept help - very difficult to do

What is Arc?
Founded in 1994, ARC is a registered charity offering professional support to people affected by cancer and those who care for them. The support is holistic and complements primary medical treatment with education and psychological care.

Who usually comes for help @ ARC?
. People diagnosed with cancer no matter where they live or where they are being treated.
. Adult family members and friends of those affected by cancer.
. Members of the caring professions who work with people with cancer.

What Services does ARC Provide?
Drop-In Centre
Relaxation and Breathing
Relaxation & Visualization
Tai Chi Relaxation
ARC House Garden-a place where people can relax and reflect

Courses including:
Learning to Live with Cancer
Stress Management
Stress Management for Carers
Colon Cancer Support Workshop.
Expressive Art Therapy
Expressive Writing Therapy
Cancer Workshops
Menopause and Breast Cancer Programme
Prostate Cancer Workshop
Breast Cancer Partners Programme (for men)



PH: 01 8307333