Final Blog Posting

THE PERCIEVED IMPACT OF SUPPLEMENTAL TREATMENT FOR CANCER PATIENTS

    When I began my research this summer, I had this idea of how it was going to go. Needless to say, the process somewhat felt like one of those HGTV shows where stuff keeps going wrong. But ultimately, just like in one of those shows we got something beautiful out of it, and I’m so excited and proud to show off our work.

When we first got accepted into the program we made schedules of when we wanted things to be done and how we were going to do it, but we forgot to take into consideration that we would have to go through the internal review board prior to beginning our interviews and truly conducting research. So, we started out by completing a CITI program that talked about ethics and conducting research. We also gathered basic information on cancer, so we could quickly choose our topics and make interview questions to get started with the process. Once we submitted the questions there was about a one month gap.

We ultimately decided to choose the subtopics “Healthy Living: Diet/Exercise”, “Mindfulness/Yoga/Positive Thinking”, “Support Systems”, and “Spirituality”, and divided them between the two of us. I ended up being in charge of healthy living and support systems. I was fortunate enough to have a study abroad experience that focused on oncology, and these two topics were discussed frequently. The course helped show me how to research these topics in literary searches, as well as give me the knowledge of primary cancer treatments. So, when I did my research I looked for articles within the past ten years, and used Pubmed and Google Scholar as data bases to ensure I was getting information from reputable sources. I didn’t realize originally how important the wording of your searches are in getting the specific content you are looking for. For instance when I was looking up information on the impact of exercise on cancer patients, I learned I really had to search “exercise and cancer” or I had to search “exercise and cancer treatments”. After changing my wordings about a billion times I finally came up with enough articles. I then had to go through and figure out which articles really were best for what I was trying to prove.

Once we got the go ahead to carry out our interviews, I was actually in the Netherlands on my study abroad program, so I had to adjust my original plan and use email to interview the cancer survivors I had asked to participate before I had left. That was a challenge because I was hoping to create more of a conversation than a question and answer type of environment. I also had to be very specific in the instructions I gave to them. I made it clear that they could remain anonymous if they chose and sent them consent forms as well. I also told them they only had to answer questions they felt comfortable with and felt related to their individual treatment. The thing I learned about cancer care is that every patient is different. Treatments are very individualized, and people choose different types of treatments whether they be primary or supplemental. In the end I was very thankful because the two survivors I interviewed were very open and honest in their responses and were very passionate on the topic itself.

After I finally had all of my research together, I put together outlines of what I wanted to say and how I wanted to tell their stories along with the research I had done on my own. It was important to me that I portrayed their ideas in the correct way. I then got to have some fun by writing the blog posts and putting together a format that allowed me to get creative in how I displayed the information. Brina and I both agreed that we wanted our blogs to be simple, and informative so people were able to understand what we had found. We are so excited to make our Facebook page go live in September so we can share our information we have learned as long as resources so people are aware of supplemental treatments.

Our research showed just how important supplemental treatments are in cancer care. They don’t necessarily cure cancer, but they help create a better prognosis for cancer patients, and help create a more individualized approach to treatments. Also, cancer treatments like radiotherapy, chemotherapy, etc. are known for having many side effects, and I know specifically in my healthy living blog I talked a lot about how they can help patients manage their side effects like fatigue and nausea. My professors this summer also emphasized the healthier a patient is going into a cancer treatment, usually helps the outcome in the end. The survivors I talked to also mentioned that because of their cancer they decided to continue that healthy lifestyle after their treatments were over and they were cancer free.

I’ve never had cancer, so I can only imagine the way people feel when they’re diagnosed, then going through treatment, and even after treatment, but I did learn the importance of having a good support system. Each individual classifies their support system differently. Maybe that support system is your family, or fellow cancer patients, or even friends or religious groups. Having that community and support help patients come to terms with how they’re feeling and even just express what they’re going through. Kathleen, one of the survivors I interviewed explained that she never went alone to chemo. “When I started to lose my hair my son shaved my head and his in solidarity. We tried to make it as fun as possible. My family (sisters and cousins) helped do laundry and help keep my house in order. Friends from the town and work sent dinner over almost every night. My kids’ friends’ moms helped with dropping them off to activities. It took a village”. She said with all of that help she was able to keep her life in order and fight cancer. This way she wasn’t living in chaos. Sometimes people need a little extra help.

Overall, I am thankful that I was given this experience. I believe it will help me become a better nurse and focus on patients’ wishes and what they want from their treatment. I’ve heard too many stories of how cancer treatments are becoming too generalized and I want to help ensure my patients are deciding how they want their treatments to be carried out. When I asked the two survivors what their advice would be to new cancer patients in terms of supplemental treatments, and Patty responded “Go for it.  Complimentary therapies are just as important as traditional therapies!!!   When used in conjunction with each other one is giving themselves the gift of better odds.” This idea, the gift of better odds, is so powerful.

I think both Brina and I have had an incredible experience through this program and were able to put together a page that can be available to everyone. If we are able to reach just one person and make a difference in their lives, I feel that we will have accomplished absolute success. But I think looking back at how much we’ve done this summer, and how much we’ve learned we are proud of how it all came together. It was definitely challenging at times, but we were able to adjust and get through it together and with the help of Dr. Maxam who we are so thankful to have as our faculty in this program.

 

 

 

Blog 2: A Midway Check

“THE PERCEIVED IMPACT OF SUPPLEMENTAL TREATMENT FOR CANCER PATIENTS”

When I first started this research, I assumed that it would all be smooth sailing, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be to coordinate my schedule with the schedules of the interviewees, which is a major part of my research. I forgot that prior to beginning interviews you have to be approved by the Internal Review Board, so my whole initial schedule had been thrown off, so instead of starting with interviews I had to begin with online research. So far, I have done a lot of literary searches on our topics, and what I have learned is the importance of the wording of the searches you do. I had to make many adjustments to get the types of articles I wanted, and there were sometimes I felt I found the perfect article and then read it fully and realized it didn’t quite fit my criteria.

I just completed my study abroad course where we had to learn how to use data bases like “Pubmed” to find articles that supported our case studies, and funny enough one of my topics was utilizing exercise in the treatments of breast cancer patients. I was thankful for this because my professors explained how we should search these topics, and I was able to use this knowledge in my own research.

After looking at my results I have found that these supplementary treatments have had major positive impacts on the treatments of many cancer patients. One person I have interviewed so far explained that if it weren’t for her increase of spirituality and support system, she would not be alive today. I have found that the addition of personal interviews to the literary research have made the work so much more meaningful. It adds a face and a story to the findings.

Although I have not completed the entirety of the research, I have learned the importance these types of research have on cancer patients. It makes me feel like what I am doing is important, which makes this whole experience worthwhile. Hopefully I can utilize this information in my practice when I do become an oncology nurse. It also made me learn the importance of listening to people and their stories. You can learn so much if you combine data and the person, because every single person is so different in how they cope and how they react to their cancer treatments, no textbook can tell you how a patient wants to be cared for and what they would like to use as a complementary treatment.

 

Blog Post 1: The Perceived Impact of Supplemental Treatments on Cancer Patients

When trying to choose a topic, Brina and I decided we wanted to pick a topic that was meaningful to us, that we felt passionate about, and that we both found relatable and important. It just so happened that both of us felt a connection to the topic of cancer. We also just took a course called “Mindfulness and Cultural Intelligence” together which sparked the idea of what kind of impact does Mindfulness play on Cancer patients. That idea then bloomed to many different types of supplemental treatments and from that point on we were both all in. We were both thrilled when Dr. Maxam expressed the same interest and passion in this idea and that’s how we created our title “The Perceived Impact of Supplemental Treatments on Cancer Patients”.

Underneath that title we picked six subcategories which include the impact of support systems, spirituality, diet, mindfulness/yoga, exercise, and milestones/positive thinking. We will be interviewing cancer survivors on their experiences and getting feedback from them on how these subtopics played a role in their own personal cancer treatments as well as doing a literature search on these subtopics. Together they will create a strong base for our postings. Afterwards we will be creating a Facebook page where we will be posting blogs/newsletters containing our research from each individual subtopic as well as a background posting explaining what cancer and supplemental treatments are. This platform was chosen to bring more  awareness to our research. Social media tends to bring in a larger audience than just posting on a blog website, and we would like to make the information more accessible to others. Cancer diagnosis is so common that we are hopeful our research will make a difference in the treatment of cancer patients or families of cancer patients that read our posts.

We want to start by understanding what cancer is as a whole, some of the primary treatments as well as the effects of these treatments. Understanding the basics will help us form a strong argument for our research. From there we can better understand what some of the supplemental treatments are, in what ways they are used, and the perceived benefits of the use of these treatments.

I am hoping to become an oncology nurse in the future, so through this project I will be gaining knowledge regarding oncology itself, the primary treatments, and the beneficial outcomes of the supplementary treatments, all of which I believe will be valuable.