Is there anyone out there who is not afraid of cancer? Doubtful. Even the expert researchers and clinicians who work daily with cancer are human, and fear the consequences of a disease that is potentially life-threatening, with no guarantee of prevention or cure.
What is equally fearsome is the frequent lack of understanding of basic facts about cancer, including its prevalence. If we could achieve a basic level of cancer literacy among the public, it would clear up much misinformation that leads people to make less than optimal decisions before, during, and after cancer treatment, not to mention while supporting someone else with cancer.
A new book delves into solving these problems, Navigating the C: A Nurse Charts the Course for Cancer Survivorship Care, Blue Bayou Press, January 2018. Written by Alene Nitzky, Ph.D., RN, OCN, an oncology nurse who left the hospital setting to work directly with people in her community, the book is a careful unraveling of the complex layers of the healthcare system. It examines how each layer contributes to a less than optimal experience for the actual and potential patients, caregivers, and families, when it comes to confronting a cancer diagnosis, and all that goes with it through treatment and beyond.
Replete with solutions and innovative ideas, the book scours the reasons that the lay public has so much confusion around cancer- the overabundance of information online, the snake oil salesmen and “armchair oncologists” ready to pounce at the mere mention of the C word, the paucity of skills taught around navigating the healthcare system and its surplus of unchecked information.
As with many questions answered in Navigating the C, Nitzky takes a practical, conversational and simple approach. Patients will gain useful skills in self-advocacy and self-care from the Cancer Harbors program in the Appendix, designed to improve functioning and well-being around a comprehensive range of issues common to cancer survivors during and after treatment.
Those who work most closely with patients will find ways to avoid burnout and build sensitivity and effectiveness in meeting patients’ needs, including physicians, nurses, family members caregivers, and those who have never had cancer. Health executives, decisionmakers and policymakers will also benefit from a perspective on the ground, at the level of impact of their decisions.
One of several practical approaches in Navigating the C involves steps a layperson can take to build resilience and confidence in case of a personal confrontation with one’s own, or a loved one’s, cancer diagnosis. The Prevent-Prepare- Prehab method of cancer survivorship provides a template for being as prepared as possible, with minimal effort. The book contains many more resources to best prepare yourself, during, after, but equally important, before, your own or a loved one’s cancer diagnosis.
In addition to providing three programs for guidance in real-life, everyday needs in survivorship, the book:
- Guides the reader in defining their own values around health, life, healthcare, and mortality so they can be clear about what to do in the event of a cancer or serious illness diagnosis.
- Empowers past, current and potential cancer patients to take control of their own healthcare by engaging in thought processes that prepare them to reduce the trauma they may experience around such a diagnosis.
- Challenges patients and healthcare professionals alike to think beyond the current model of the survivorship care plan after cancer treatment, focusing on the everyday needs of the person rather than medical convenience, advocating for their own needs effectively to achieve better functioning, well-being, and quality of life every single day.
- Clarifies for nurses, physicians, other providers, and decisionmakers, the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and community outreach for supporting cancer survivors’ everyday needs, and ways to do this without adding to their workloads.
Why Navigating the C is unique…
“This book is written from a nurse’s perspective…how each of the stakeholders in the current healthcare system- nurses, physicians, executives and administrators, cancer patients, and people who have never had cancer- can do a better job of meeting people’s needs around cancer.”
“Nurses are the professionals who work most closely with patients, however. We are trained holistically to recognize and relieve suffering. Our first concern is patient safety. We advocate for patients. Nurses are in the eye of the storm…without nurses, patients would be adrift at sea. Our voices should be heard.”
Whether you are a cancer expert through personal, clinical, academic, or vicarious experience, Navigating the C raises important points, to remind ourselves why, and to make us all think about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and how we can do better, with the ultimate goal of improving life for the person with cancer.