Cynthia’s Scholarship Story

Cynthia’s Scholarship Story

Dr. Jules Blank actually treated my mother when she had leukemia. She passed away very young and I was just 12 years old at the time.

I never would have imagined that I would come full circle and be receiving a scholarship in Dr. Blank’s name to continue my education in healthcare. They didn’t know it then, but my mother’s nurses had a huge impact on me.

When a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, there is often little positivity in their lives at that time. As a registered nurse, it means a lot to me to be a small ray of hope in the lives of my patients and the lives of their families. Losing my mother to cancer gives me a unique perspective and a drive to be a source of strength for my patients.

One of the core values of Green Bay Oncology is to embrace the difficult. My patients have taught me so much about what this means. Seeing the strength it takes to endure what our patients go through gives me a different perspective on life. It shows me what is truly important and that often when we are pushed to our limits, there is still more to give.

I have always been driven to learn, and I am grateful for the support from Green Bay Oncology to pursue my dream of becoming a Nurse Practitioner.

Recently, I became a first-time mom. And while being in graduate school is not conducive to this, the support I have received from Green Bay Oncology and the JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP while going back to school will never be forgotten.

Cynthia’s Scholarship Story

Cynthia’s Scholarship Story

Dr. Jules Blank actually treated my mother when she had leukemia. She passed away very young and I was just 12 years old at the time.

I would never have imagined that I would come full circle and be receiving a scholarship in Dr. Blank’s name to continue my education in healthcare. They didn’t know it then, but my mother’s nurses had a huge impact on me. When a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, there is often little to be positive about at that time.

Now as a registered nurse, it means a lot to be a small ray of hope in the lives of my patients and the lives of their families. Losing my mother to cancer giv

es me a unique perspective and a drive to be a source of strength for my patients.

One of the core values of Green Bay Oncology is to Embrace the Difficult. My patients have taught me so much about what this means. Seeing the strength it takes to endure what our patients go

through gives me a different perspective on life. It shows me what is truly important and that often when we are pushed to our limits, there is still more to give.

I have always been driven to learn, and I am grateful for the support from Green Bay Oncology to pursue my dream of becoming a Nurse Practitioner.

Recently, I became a first-time mom. And while being in graduate school is not conducive to this, the support I have received from Green Bay Oncology and the JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP while going back to school will never be forgotten.

Jessica’s Scholarship Story

Jessica’s Scholarship Story

Healthcare can be challenging but the satisfaction I feel from changing peoples lives for the better is what has made me passionate about this field.

When I was given the opportunity to work in the Green Bay Oncology clinic at OSF I was excited to learn a new nursing specialty but I didn’t anticipate how special the bond with oncology patients would be. I look forward to building caring relationships with our patients that are scared or nervous at the beginning of their treatment journey. Providing relief from unnecessary worry and helping patients feel as comfortable as possible is a top priority.

I was driven to pursue a BSN degree to increase my nursing knowledge and provide high quality care for the patients I care for as well as possibly open doors for professional advancement down the road.

At the time I was awarded the JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP, my next course was scheduled to start in a couple weeks and I was a month away from going on maternity leave. I was reluctantly considering taking the upcoming semester off due to changes in family finances that the baby would bring. The gift of the oncology scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time. I was able to continue furthering my education and move closer to completing my degree with much less stress.

Thank you again to Dr. Jules Blank and Green Bay Oncology for the scholarship award!

Jess’ Scholarship Story

Jess’ Scholarship Story

As a little girl my dream was not to be a ballerina or a princess but to be a heart surgeon.

For Christmas gifts I received microscope sets and heart models, and in high school I took every science class I could get my hands on!

My Grandma who I was very close with passed away from Leukemia the week of my nursing school graduation. She was one of the most important people in my life. Her cancer diagnosis impacted my decision to pursue oncology. I think of her often when caring for patients here at Green Bay Oncology.

One of my favorite things about Green Bay Oncology is our clinics strive not only to give our patients the best care, but treat them like family. I think all of our values are important to the care we provide our patients. Pursue Empathetic, Caring Relationships is my favorite value, but close seconds are Embrace the Difficult and Be Better. I truly value the relationships I have built with my patients and their family members.

I have always enjoyed being a student and learning and by obtaining my BSN I will be able to provide the best care for our patients and become an even better nurse.

The JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP has reduced the cost of schooling and I’m able to focus more on my school work and less on paying for it. As a working mom it’s already a struggle to manage work and kids and life outside of work. I’m thankful to be a recipient of the JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP.

Kristy’s Scholarship Story

Kristy’s Scholarship Story

I have always known that I wanted to do something to help people, although it took me a while to figure out what that meant.

When I was younger, I always thought I would be a veterinarian. I then shifted my focus to helping people as I grew older. When I was sixteen, my mother was diagnosed with ALL, and all of the hours I spent on the ninth floor of St. Vincent Hospital helped turn me to nursing. I actually never thought I’d be able to work in oncology; I once had to float on ninth floor and absolutely dreaded returning back to that place. However, the way it made me feel to be able to help these patients and provide a sense of security for them completely changed my life. It was shortly after that experience that I saw an opening at Green Bay Oncology and felt compelled to apply.

My favorite Green Bay Oncology value is “Embrace the Difficult.” We are so quick to tell others to “focus on the positives” but tend to forget that the negatives are not going away. By doing so, they are only being pushed aside to build up and come back later. By embracing the difficult situations, we can help to solve these problems and make them into learning experiences. 

I look forward to being able to make my patients’ cancer journeys easier in any way I can. Until you’ve lived through it, it’s hard to truly know how easy it is to get lost in the diagnosis. I especially look forward to being able to help the families of my patients in any way possible, as they often need support and guidance as well.

I am driven to pursue further education because it’s in my nature. I always want to excel and improve; I tend to compete with myself. I am recently completing my second bachelor’s degree and have now been in college as many years as I spent in grade school and high school combined. I may take a semester off here and there, but I don’t know if I ever see myself really being “done” with school.

The JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP allowed me to focus on school, work, and my family, while easing the stress of tuition and book costs greatly.  It’s always an added stressor when you suddenly add thousands of dollars to your bills, and it honestly can be such a deterrent from taking classes at all. Because of this scholarship, I was able to take classes each semester and now am only a few weeks away from graduation.

Paddleton: Being There is Everything

Paddleton: Being There is Everything

“I’M the dying guy!” Mark Duplass’ character screams at his best friend, played by Ray Romano.

“I’m the OTHER guy!” Romano’s character screams back.

Paddleton, a low-budget independent movie about a middle-aged loner facing down a terminal cancer diagnosis with his upstairs neighbor, debuted on Netflix on February 22nd, 2019. While most such movies focus on the patient’s experience, Paddleton is about cancer as a shared journey and a testament to the healing power of human companionship.

FAIR WARNING: if you haven’t seen the movie yet and want to avoid spoilers, stop reading now!

The film opens with Andy (Ray Romano) accompanying his friend Michael (Mark Duplass) to the doctor. There’s a tumor in Michael’s stomach and it’s already spread to his liver. The doctor’s recommending referral to an oncologist but won’t answer questions about prognosis.

Andy isn’t satisfied and pushes the issue on behalf of his friend. “How about this? How ‘bout I’m gonna make a statement, and if it’s a true statement you don’t have to correct me?” he asks the doctor, who’s obviously annoyed.

“Is what Michael has…incurable?”

“Dude, that’s a question. It has to be a statement,” deadpans Michael.

And that’s how it goes with the two of them. They take their liquor straight, and with a wry smile.

They’re an awkward but endearing couple – though they’re absotively posolutely not that kind of couple (as clearly spelled out in two awkward and hilarious scenes). They’re just neighbors. They just happen to have adjoining apartments…and spend most of their free time together, heating up frozen pizzas, watching Kung Fu movies, and playing a homegrown paddle-ball variant (which they call paddleton) in their every spare minute.

They’re something much more important.

Their relationship is uncomplicated and placid, because neither really likes to talk all that much. They don’t trouble each other with messy emotions. Michael is aloof about his cancer diagnosis -“It’s just meh” he says. He’s determined to maintain their normal routine as long as he can, and opt for physician-assisted suicide when he can’t.

It’s impossible not to love them, because they ask for very little and demand even less. We sense they both took a hard look at life a long time ago and came to terms with it in their own peculiar way.

The movie doesn’t condescend to them, or to us. There’re no epiphanies or dramatic gestures, nor is there a last-minute miracle. The end goes down just as Michael planned it. The story is simple, bordering on predictable. But yet we can’t stop watching these two oddballs fighting through the day as best they can.

The suspense comes from wondering how these two emotionally stunted people will handle something as devastating as death. And this is where Ray Romano really shines.

It’s beautifully painful to watch Romano’s face. He’s agonized to be there, watching his friend fade. It’s agonizing for him to bear witness. But he knows that not being there would be much worse. There’s never a moment of suspense about whether he’ll see his friendship through to the end. The suspense is in wondering what it’ll cost him.

Watching him, I couldn’t help wondering about what being involved in caring for the dying does – and maybe should – cost me.

Medical professionals involved in end-of-life care are often urged to “maintain healthy boundaries”. We’re not supposed to make the patient’s suffering our own, or mistake their family’s grief for our own – though in a very real way we never can. The patient is never our spouse/parent/sibling/child. The pain of losing a patient can never approach that level of personal loss no matter how much affection we’ve developed during our professional relationship. But yet we’re counseled to keep emotional distance.

It’s for our own mental health, we’re told.

And we cannot realistically sit 24/7 vigil with the dying. There simply isn’t the time. We have much work to do. And we cannot presume to take the seats of those whose grief takes primacy over our own.

But Paddleton reminded me how absolutely critical it is to stay with people emotionally at such times – no matter the cost.

Dying is sacred. There’s ritual and ceremony to it. And whatever the faith tradition, there’s a chalice brimming with grief that patients and their loved ones take turns drinking from. The cup is deep, and they need help getting to the bottom of it.

And I think we, as medical professionals, have to be willing to take a sip ourselves from time to time.

 

Clinical Trial Award

However, only one in five U.S. oncologists participates in the NCORP – the National Cancer Institute’s pipeline that delivers clinical trials from the academic centers to the community cancer clinics – and it’s easy to understand why: it’s lot of grant-writing, administrative work, and staying informed enough to match patients to trials that might help them.

But if you’re dedicated, you make time for the important things – and Green Bay Oncology physicians are dedicated to clinical research.

Though only a minority of NCORP physicians get recognized (81 physicians) for excellence in patient enrollments, this year FOUR Green Bay Oncology physicians received this honor:

●  Dr. Anthony Jaslowski – Gold Certificate

●  Dr. Brian Burnette – Silver Certificate

●  Dr. Sigurdur Bodvarsson – Silver Certificate

●  Dr. Matthew Ryan – Silver Certificate

    

Recognition is nice, but doing the right thing for people facing cancer is even better – and that’s why our physicians keep at it.

It’s the right thing to do.

Less Chemo for Breast Cancer?

Less Chemo for Breast Cancer?

Nobody likes chemotherapy: not patients, and not oncologists.

We’d all rather avoid it if we can – and now we’ve identified another group of women who can safely do without it.  

Some early-stage breast cancers can spread throughout the body before the tumor is removed surgically– even before the cancer is diagnosed. Those small, spreading cells (called micrometastases) aren’t detectable by current technology. But micrometastases can seed tumors that show up a few years later in the bones, liver, or brain – and ultimately cause death.  

If we give chemotherapy to patients who have micrometastases, we can kill off those little seeds before they take root and improve the chances of cure. But it’s only worth it if the risk of having micrometastases in the first place is sufficiently high – usually around 18% or more. That’s why accurately predicting risk is so critical in treating early stage breast cancer. 

So for people at high risk of having micrometastases (e.g. those with lymph node involvement, or high-risk mutations on the Oncotype test), we recommend chemotherapy.  

For people at low risk of micrometastasis, we don’t. 

So what’s the news flash?  

The Oncotype test reports a patient’s risk of micrometastasis as low, intermediate, or high. We’ve always known what to do with the low and high risk patients, but we’ve been less certain about the intermediate risk group.  

But the largest trial of its kind was just reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, and it looks like we can safely skip chemotherapy in Oncotype-intermediate patients. 

Bottom line: 

  • Women with early-stage breast cancer only seem to benefit from chemotherapy if they have lymph node involvement, or if the Oncotype test indicates they’re at high risk for micrometastases. 

What is Convenient Cancer Care?

What is Convenient Cancer Care?

Our patients want and deserve convenience, but what is convenient?

I thought about this recently while evaluating a hospital patient. She’d been diagnosed recently and so wanted a plan NOW that she’d driven two hours for an earlier appointment. She’d wrestled with all the associated questions – Where do I go? Who’ll drive me there? Will I feel well enough for the trip? Is snow in the forecast? And what about the next appointment?

From my perspective, as a non-patient, non-afraid, non-recently-diagnosed person, a four-hour round trip sounded more inconvenient than waiting another two or three days for something closer to home.  Living in the Green Bay area I’ve  always taken for granted the convenience of having everything 10-15 minutes away.  Many health care clinics, 4 different hospitals, in fact I often have to argue with my family as to which grocery store we are going to.  Everything is an easy 10-15 minutes and perhaps if there is a little traffic maybe 20 minutes, however, my friends from large metropolitan areas find our idea of “traffic” laughable. But fear sometimes trumps mileage when you’re a cancer patient. I was glad we could get her in that day. I was even happier to tell her about our locations in Escanaba and Manistique, which she didn’t know about.

So was she. Her next appointments would only be twenty minutes away, and you could feel her relief – but there was a catch. She’d have to see a different doctor from now on. I was afraid that might be a deal-breaker.

We’ve got a dedicated team of providers at Green Bay Oncology, and they’re happy to spend hours commuting to ten different locations from as far south as Chilton to as far north as Manistique – and I mean who else is willing to do that? How valuable is that?

But not every provider can drive everywhere. The doc she knew didn’t go there, and she’d have to pick another.

Now when my insurance plan suddenly forces me to choose a different doctor (yes, it happens to providers too) I find that VERY inconvenient. It’s an outrage, and I’ve lived it. I was in full-on apology mode and I braced for her objection.

Know what? She didn’t mind, not at all in fact. She did the quick math (four hours vs. twenty minutes round-trip) and minded not at all. Convenience trumped familiarity.

Turns out, I maybe don’t know that much about patient convenience after all. Or maybe what I think is convenient isn’t always what they think is convenient.

But I’m not the important one here, and maybe we ought to let the patients tell us what is and isn’t convenient – and design our systems accordingly – rather than the other way around.

Caregivers: Put on Your Own Mask First

Caregivers: Put on Your Own Mask First

You know those safety demonstrations at the beginning of a flight, where they go through the plane’s safety features?

Remember what they always say about the oxygen masks?

“If you’re with someone that needs assistance, always put on your own mask first.”

You’re thinking that’s selfish maybe, but it’s critical advice – and not just for airline passengers.

US Engineer Destin Sandlin simulated the experience of losing cabin pressure in-flight, and found out how little time it takes to become mentally incapacitated. Within two minutes of trying to breathe in low-pressure, Sandlin could no longer identify basic shapes or perform simple tasks. He couldn’t have put on his or anyone else’s mask if he’d wanted to.

How long do you think you’d have between realizing the pressure was dropping and fumbling your mask on? It’s probably less than two minutes, even if you’re moving efficiently and thinking clearly, and by the time you notice the symptoms it’ll be too late. If you put yours on first you’ll have all the time you need for theirs, and you’ll save two people; but try to take care of them before yourself and you’ll both be lost.

There’s an important lesson there for caregivers. Our internal caregiver resists the advice to “care for yourself first” because it seems selfish. We frantically try to help those around us, neglecting ourselves until we’re incapacitated before we realize it.

How long do you think you’ll have before becoming so exhausted you can’t take care of yourself OR your loved one? Maybe you won’t notice it until you lose your balance and break a leg, or fall asleep behind the wheel, or develop a sudden pneumonia and wind up in the hospital.

Caregivers wear many hats and must often learn new skills, which is stressful and increases our need for rest. Skimp on rest in that situation, and you’re set up for depression and deteriorating physical wellbeing – leading to what is known as Caregiver Burnout.

What is Caregiver Burnout?

According to WebMD, Caregiver Burnout is the state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can occur when caregivers don’t get the time to care for themselves. Signs of Caregiver Burnout can include: fatigue, stress, change in sleep patterns, getting sick more often, and withdrawal from friends and family.

Thankfully, having a solid self-care foundation can prevent this from happening.

What is Self-Care and how do I do this?

Simply put, self-care is budgeting time to make sure your own needs are met, in four critical areas: physical, emotional, social and spiritual.

Examples:

  • Physical Self-Care: exercise, taking walks, trying yoga, following-up with your primary care provider, hiking, meeting with a nutritionist
  • Emotional Self-Care: journaling, joining a support group, finding a mentorship program, practicing mindfulness, counseling
  • Social Self-Care: going to the movies, volunteering in your community, joining a club, spending time with your friends, taking a mini-vacation
  • Spiritual Self-Care: reaching out to the faith community, meditating, spending time alone with yourself and reflect on life goals and accomplishments, spending time in nature and enjoying a sunset, reading spiritual literature

If you take care of yourself first you’ll have the strength and energy to care for your loved one. But if you neglect yourself in favor of your loved one, you’ll both be lost.

So remember to put on your own mask first.

Sources:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/refinery29.com/why-youre-instructed-to-p_b_11201778.html

https://www.webmd.com/women/caregiver-recognizing-burnout#1

https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/self-care