Newsletter — Spring 2012, Vol. #3
Working Wth Patients To Push the Envelope in Cancer Treatment
Oncology Nurses: Partners in Care
Multidisciplinary Hepatobiliary Program Offers Exceptional Care to BMC Patients
Catwalk for BMC Cancer Care
Welcome to our Spring Newsletter! We are pleased to present information about our multidisciplinary Hepatobiliary Oncology program led by Dr. Michael Stone and Dr. David Nunes and feature a story about Kris MacDonald, a cancer survivor. Additionally, we are delighted to highlight the exceptional caring work of our oncology nurses and to announce our inaugural fundraising event Catwalk for BMC Cancer Care. We are confident this will prove to be an excellent evening to raise awareness about BMC’s Cancer Care Center and to garner support for our cancer care support services.
This newsletter is written and edited by the Cancer Care Center team, with contributions from Marketing and the Office of Communications. Please email your feedback and suggestions for articles to: CancerCareServices@bmc.org
At 39 years of age, Kris MacDonald was fit and enjoying life as a realtor living on the South Shore with his partner John. He had never suffered from any serious medical condition and was living a full and productive life. If there is one thing that Kris has learned however, it is that cancer can strike anyone, anywhere, at anytime. November of 2009 will forever remain in Kris’ memory. That is when he was admitted to Quincy Medical Center with severe abdominal pain.
|Kris MacDonald and Nancy Garner, RN|
“While we were waiting for the doctors and the CAT scan results, I had used my smartphone to diagnose myself with appendicitis,” Kris can now joke. “It’s amazing that this couldn't have been more wrong.” Instead of appendicitis, Kris was told that he had a large cancer in his colon, and that part of it would need to be removed surgically. Unfortunately Kris’ troubles did not stop there. During his work-up it was discovered that the cancer had also spread to his liver and his lungs.
Though the spreading of his cancer made treatment options exponentially more difficult, Kris had already decided that he wanted to pursue an aggressive treatment regiment – and this is exactly what he received at Boston Medical Center (BMC). “The care I received was phenomenal. I asked for the most aggressive option and I received the most aggressive treatment.” Despite a bleak prognosis from several medical facilities, Kris met with BMC doctors Kevan Hartshorn, MD a medical oncologist and Michael Stone, MD, Chief of Surgical Oncology, leaders of BMC’s Hepatobiliary Program. “I had an immediate comfort level within the first 10 minutes of meeting with Dr. Hartshorn,” Kris recalls. “He [Dr. Hartshorn] was very well prepared and incredibly considerate. He even wore a mask because he had been getting over a cold.”
Still, Kris had a long road ahead of him. “Dr. Stone was very honest and upfront about what we were facing.” Within days, Kris was meeting with doctors and undergoing his first surgical procedure at BMC. Within seven months, Kris underwent eight treatments and procedures, including removal of parts of his colon, liver and lungs; a series of chemotherapy treatments; and a portal vein embolization – a technique used prior to removal of a large part of the liver to increase the size and function of the non-cancer bearing liver remaining. Many of these surgeries lasted for several hours due to the complexity of Kris’ condition.
“Kris’ case is really a remarkable one. While his treatment regimen was a bit overwhelming, we tried to make it as manageable as possible while pursuing the aggressive, potentially curative treatment that he wanted,” recalls Dr. Hartshorn. “We had to make sure that his cancer did not spread further while utilizing a multidisciplinary approach to treat his existing tumors.” During his stay, an entire spectrum of personal including doctors, surgeons, nurses, technicians, and medical students, worked to ensure that Kris was receiving the highest quality care available. “While I was at BMC I didn’t feel like a patient; I felt like family.”
While Kris’ situation was complicated and high risk, the medical staff of BMC, and the members of the Cancer Care Center’s Hepatobiliary Program worked tirelessly to ensure a successful outcome. Amazingly, Kris managed to maintain a positive attitude during his treatment. Kris often jokes about, “the fantastic free Wi-Fi available at BMC,” which allowed him to continue working, even from his hospital bed. This attitude undoubtedly contributed to Kris’ rapid recovery from all of his treatments, including going home four days after having two thirds of his liver removed. Now, with his treatment behind him, Kris returns to BMC for periodic check-ups and to visit his care team.
John, when asked about his role as a caregiver, commented “I felt like part of the BMC family too. He wasn’t just being treated for cancer, but being cared for.”
Representatives of the Medical-Oncology
Nursing Team, Moakley 3
BMC has a rich history of providing high quality, compassionate oncology nursing care. Many of our nurses have dedicated their careers to caring for patients with cancer. Nancy Garner, RN, BSN, has worked here for 27 years, starting as a nurse on a medical/surgical floor at what was then University Hospital. She recalls an interview with Jane Keilty, RN, BSN, then a nursing recruiter, when she applied for her first Northeastern University co-op experience on the oncology inpatient unit at University Hospital. That experience left a strong impression on her and years later, when given an opportunity to again work with cancer patients, she jumped at it. Nancy began her oncology career on Preston 3 and moved to the Cancer Care Center in Moakley when it opened in 2006 and has never left. “This was a big change for me, but a welcome one.” Nancy commented. “I feel as though what I am doing really means something and that I have made a positive effect on someone's life.” She describes the most rewarding aspect of her career as the relationships she and her colleagues form with their patients. Since people are often cared for by the same infusion nurse during a course of treatment, a personal bond and a friendship develops over time. “The patient looks to the companionship of the nurse as added value in his or her care,” Nancy explained. The care also extends beyond the patient and involves their families too, with some family members keeping in touch even after their loved one has passed away. Nurses also play an important role in guiding patients to support groups, the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good, Feel Better” program and to the Cancer Patient Navigator program.
Annemarie Downey, RN, an oncology nurse on Newton Pavilion 7E, also speaks to the special bond that she has formed with patients and her co-workers over the years. Annemarie, who will celebrate 25 years in Cancer Care in June, was drawn to a career in oncology after her grandfather’s bout with esophageal cancer. Over the years, she has seen improvements in chemotherapy treatment that have extended the lives of many of her patients. She is rewarded by the bonds she develops with patients and their family members and being able to provide physical and emotional support during challenging times. “Because we have longer contact with our patients than in many other subspecialties, we develop deep and special relationships with patients and families. We are privileged to support people facing huge challenges during their journeys with cancer.”
Annemarie and Nancy are two examples of the many nurses caring for patients with cancer at BMC. This work, while sometimes intense and stressful, is also deeply meaningful and rewarding. Nancy sums it up best herself: "I love this job. I get to spend a lot of time with patients who I love and they are awesome!”
Addressing a striking increase in liver cancer diagnoses in recent years, Boston Medical Center’s multidisciplinary Hepatobiliary Program is utilizing all available tools to help patients diagnosed with liver cancer to receive the very best treatment. While primary liver cancer (Hepatocellular Cancer or HCC) is one of the most common forms of cancer around the world, the United States has not historically struggled with this particular disease – until now. With a noticeable increase in diagnosis within the US, liver cancer has presented a significant challenge for patients and medical facilities.
Michael Stone, MD, Chief of Surgical Oncology
In February 2008, BMC’s Hepatobiliary Program hit the ground running in order to effectively treat the growing number of patients being diagnosed with liver cancer. Because HCC is a complicated disease that afflicts patients with complex underlying conditions, BMC has taken a multidisciplinary approach, supporting clinicians from all departments to collaborate in the diagnosis and treatment of hepatobiliary disorders, focusing on benign and malignant tumors. Just as surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists and pathologists bring their valuable skills, experience and expertise to the table, so too do the nursing staff, support staff and other services such as Nutrition and Cancer Support to provide the best possible care for our patients.
The Hepatobiliary Program excels in utilizing state-of-the-art medical procedures and bringing together numerous services in order to effectively and expertly treat patients with liver, bile duct, pancreas and other gastrointestinal cancers. One such procedure is trans arterial chemoembolization (TACE) which involves injecting chemotherapy drugs directly into a liver tumor while also blocking off the blood supply to the tumor. This allows a high dose of chemotherapy drugs to concentrate at the tumor site for a longer period of time while having little effect on the rest of the body. Another procedure, portal vein embolization takes advantage of the liver’s unique ability to undergo hypertrophy, or “re-growth” in a controlled fashion, after a portion of it has been deprived of part of its blood supply. Surgeons at BMC may utilize this technique prior to surgery, as it allows for the removal of large tumorous sections of the liver that would otherwise be inoperable.
In addition to portal vein embolization, clinicians working with this program provide patients with every diagnostic and treatment modality available, including procedures such radiofrequency ablation, stereotactic body radiation therapy, chemotherapy and liver transplantation.
Since its inception, the Hepatobiliary Program has grown and evolved in order to best serve the rapidly increasing patient population that require their services. Its focus remains on providing rapid access to multidisciplinary care and ensuring that patients with complex, high risk problems of the liver and biliary tract are provided with the highest quality of comprehensive care available.
At BMC’s Cancer Care Center, we do much more than diagnose and treat cancer. For many of our patients we are “family” and provide the support and hope that any of us would want and need if we were sick. And for some, the challenge of a cancer diagnosis is not the biggest problem in their lives. Some patients may try to ignore their diagnosis because they simply cannot afford to take time off from work for treatment. Others, without a support network feel hopeless and alone.
Fortunately, at BMC's Cancer Care Center, patients find not only specialists who are experts in their fields, but they also find a caring, supportive staff ready to help with everything from arranging rides to appointments, coordinating appointments to reduce the number of missed days at work, obtaining health insurance, and offering encouragement and support throughout treatment and beyond.
To support the Exceptional Cancer Care Without Exception provided at BMC, we are proud to announce an inaugural fundraising event to benefit BMC Cancer Care Services. This event will feature local designers creating and styling fashions specifically for the runway. These fashions will adorn local celebrities like Farrah Lester, Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester’s wife and Katie Boyd, star of Style Network's Boston based reality series Wicked Fit, but more importantly will feature BMC cancer survivors and BMC staff as runway models. Tickets to the event include a signature cocktail, passed hors d'oeuvres, silent auction, fashion show, post reception, and gift bag.
For more information, please visit BMCCATWALK.ORG to buy your tickets.