Why Kaiser Permanente? Members Say it Best

Nurses Made Chemotherapy Doable


Rose Hesselbrock

When I received the cancer diagnosis of Stage Ic ovarian cancer in November 2011, I felt like I had been transported to another planet. I remember listening to the oncology surgeon confirm the diagnosis after I woke up from surgery and all I wanted to say to her was "You're in the wrong room. You're mistaken. This is not MY life path."

A few weeks later, I sat with the oncologist who described the chemotherapy treatment to me: the schedule (six courses each, three weeks apart); the common and less common side effects; the drugs used to treat the chemo side effects. I tried to hold myself together, but after everything I heard from the oncologist, I burst into tears and thought only of getting up and walking out of the room. When I envisioned refusing treatment, though, I knew that I would always wonder if that was the right decision. So I agreed to schedule the treatment.

Lynn Flaherty has been an oncology nurse for many years. When she came into the room to schedule the appointment, she could see that I was still very emotional and upset. She described her own family's experience of cancer, including a sister with a more advanced stage of ovarian cancer than mine. She explained that although the chemo regimen I would receive wasn't a walk in the park, it was "doable." She had no idea that she had just thrown me a lifeline. I held that word "do-able" in my mind and my heart throughout the long four months of treatment and found that Lynn's assurances were true.

Cassandra McCarthy is an infusion nurse in the Kaiser Permanente Infusion Center on Capitol Hill. At the first chemo session, I told Cassie how nervous I felt and she assured me that everyone feels that way at first. She exclaimed over the red, shiny shoes I wore to give me courage and then — gentle, self-assured and very skillful — she slipped the IV needle into my vein and checked back frequently to make sure everything was going OK.

The treatment process went very smoothly since the lab, the clinic, and the infusion center are all in the same Capitol Hill location. I did experience some of the chemo's expected side effects but through MyGroupHealth (online secure messaging), I was able to make quick contact with my clinical oncology team who answered my questions and helped me through some of the rough spots during treatment. Five months later, my hair has grown back and I feel like I'm back on my own planet. I'm very grateful for the excellent care I received at Group Health.

Posted: September 2012

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