5/31/18

‘Knock-your-socks-off’ team energizes cancer survivor

Survivor shares her tips for beating cancer: Gratitude, support and cozy chairs make battling cancer easier.

“Wonderful. Incredible. Astounding.”

Urbana’s Pamela Hill brags to her friends about her care at Carle Cancer Center.

“There’s no better place than here for cancer treatment,” she said. “Even the 24-hour food service and housekeeping services are amazing.”

For most, cancer is the most difficult battle they will fight. With long visits and treatments, patients spend a lot of time in the hospital. Patients often rely on their family, friends and healthcare team to help pass the time.

“It can be hard to understand symptoms like fatigue for those who aren’t going through cancer treatments like chemotherapy,” said Carle social worker Kimberly Harden, MSW, LCSW.

Patients receiving infusions in the infusion suite may spend several hours completing treatment. Most chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments occur in repeating cycles. The length depends on the personalized treatment plan. Most are five days a week, for two to six weeks.

Although the suite offers many comforts, volunteers find new activities to pass the time.

But, an idea changed that.

A member of the Carle Auxiliary’s infusion suite committee suggested an activity cart help keep patients occupied while receiving infusions.

“Volunteers are very sensitive to the needs of patients. My usual Wednesday volunteer always remembers I prefer Rice Krispy treats. She digs them out for me as I arrive,” Hill said.

The cart contains the daily newspaper, decks of cards, games like Scrabble and Yahtzee, puzzles, and word search books. There are also coloring books and crayons for young patients and younger family members of patients.

The cart of “random goodies” makes Hill’s lengthy visits to Carle Cancer Center easier. Caring volunteers deliver far more than just “stuff.” They fetch warmed blankets, beverages, fruit and sandwiches.

“It is not all candy, cookies and games.” said Hill, “They are our caregivers, our cheerleaders and friends.”

Designed with flexibility, patients who want or need privacy can while others who gaze out the window or socialize.

“Imagine my surprise walking in here the first time to see a wall of windows, a patio, a garden and chairs. Oh, those chairs,” she said while Googling them to find out if they’re available for her home.

While the price tag discourages her, she remembers feeling grateful when 20 new chairs arrived in the suite thanks to the donors from the Pinkasso event and a matching grant from the Busey-Mills Community Foundation.

Hill faced ovarian cancer in 2003 while living in California. She traveled 90 minutes each way to receive care. Now battling stage four colon cancer, she’s relieved to find quality care in her backyard.

“I’m not in pain. I’m not sick. I just have a pretty bad cancer,” she said adding infusion days are actually her favorites. “It’s making a difference in controlling my disease,” she said, “and there are so many little things the team does to make it better.”

She applauds nurses and admits nominating them for a Daisy Award is next to impossible.

“How can I pick just one? I’m grateful for them – my team. Every day, every time – they knock my socks off,” she said.

Team-based care at its core.

“I’m part of my treatment plan. I share my own ideas. They don’t talk ‘about me’ or ‘to me,’ but with me. I’m listened to and supported every step of the way,” Hill said.