Pancare’s team of specialist nurses is growing, let’s get to know them
Since 2011, the Pancare Foundation has inspired hope, raised awareness, supported patients and families, and funded research for upper gastrointestinal (GI) cancers.
PanSupport is our dedicated support, resource and information service. It’s free and available to all families impacted by pancreatic, liver, stomach, biliary and oesophageal cancers. Our friendly team are dedicated specialists in upper GI cancer care and are available to support you and your family in a variety of ways on your cancer journey. From coping with a diagnosis, understanding your treatment options, managing symptoms to nurturing your emotional health, the PanSupport team provides practical advice to help you live well.
Our specialist cancer care nurses are experienced oncology nurses who can provide evidence-based information regarding diagnosis, treatment, symptom management and wellbeing. They aim to empower patients, their families and carers to work with their healthcare team to make informed choices about the treatment and management of their upper GI cancer. They can also connect you to a wide range of support programs for further emotional, financial and practical help.
You can speak to our nurses about anything to do with cancer including:
- Clarifying information from your treating doctor
- Demystifying medical terms
- Treatments and their side effects e.g. chemotherapy, radiotherapy, pain medication
- Different procedures and their side effects e.g. surgery, stent insertions/changes
- Questions you can ask your medical care team.
Pancare’s team of specialist cancer care nurses is growing, thanks to generous donations from our community fundraisers and major donors – including dedicated funding from the Dry July Foundation. Currently we have three registered nurses – Shannon, Tiff and Helen – each has vast and varied experience, let’s learn a bit more about what bought them to Pancare and what they find most rewarding about supporting people with upper GI cancer.
Shannon is our longest serving specialist nurse, she has more than 20 years of surgical and medical nursing, nursing education and she has held multiple nursing leadership roles.
Shannon was introduced to Pancare through her colleague and friend Dr Nikfarjam, Pancare’s founder. Shannon has personal experience of upper GI cancer, with several family members having been through treatment, her initial involvement with Pancare was through fundraising activities.
Shannon attended lots of fundraising events where she met people directly affected by these cancers, hearing their stories and experiences of limited support fueled her desire to become more involved. When an opportunity arose to start the cancer support nurse program at Pancare, she jumped at the opportunity.
Shannon recognises that you don’t just need help with cancer treatment, at times you may need support for the way upper GI cancer impacts the rest of your life. “We assist by answering questions about their care, or perhaps they are interested in finding out more about clinical trials or integrative medicine. We discuss pain management and can also point them in the right direction when they need to navigate their advanced care plan.”
“I find it satisfying that I can be a consistent contact for patients and their carers or loved ones right throughout their complex treatment and beyond. We can educate them and work with them to advocate for themselves or their loved one about what their preferences are when it comes to their cancer care. By encouraging them to use their voice to ensure their care is focused on them and not just the disease makes me feel like we’ve contributed to that person having what is known as “person-centered care”.
Shannon adds “The earlier you connect with PanSupport, the greater the impact we can have. If you know someone who has been diagnosed with upper GI cancer whether it be pancreatic, oesophageal, stomach, biliary or liver cancer, please let them know that one of our nurses can support them – help us spread the word! Our nurses are available for free – there’s no cost or out of pocket expenses. You don’t need a referral. Simply give Pancare a call.”
Tiff has 20 years of acute nursing experience, including some surgical liaison nursing. She has spent the majority of her career as a theatre nurse and has a postgraduate diploma in peri-operative nursing (peri-anaesthesia).
Tiff became aware of Pancare through Shannon. Through her work as an anaesthesia nurse, she regularly looked after patients undergoing upper GI cancer surgery. When someone close to Tiff was was diagnosed with an upper GI cancer, it became one of her ‘causes of choice’. Tiff has raised money for Pancare via the Facebook birthday fundraising platform and last year she and her daughter participated in Unite for Hope together. So when the opportunity to join the PanSupport team came up, it felt like a good fit.
Often patients and their families get in touch with Pancare because they need a little reassurance and an understanding ear to listen to them. Tiff finds her role as a cancer support nurse satisfying because “When a patient or their loved one makes an appointment with us, that time of 45 minutes is just for them, unlike other appointments they may have, which tend to be shorter. There are so many benefits to being a consistent point of contact for our patients. Being able to educate and encourage self-advocacy is also rewarding.”
Helen comes to Pancare with 40+ years of nursing experience. Most of Helen’s career has been as a peri-operative nurse, with 11 years as a surgical liaison nurse. She also became aware of Pancare’s mission and work through Shannon!
Helen is proud to be part of a caring team of professionals who can support patients, their carers and family members through their cancer journey. Patients often come to Pancare for advice about seeking second opinions, dietary guidance and information about available counselling for themselves or their carers. In Helen’s experience, people can be intimidated by doctors and sometimes they just need a friendly face to help them understand some aspect of their diagnosis or treatment.
“Doctors/surgeons often speak in ‘medical terminology’ that some patients cannot understand. Patients and their carers can feel embarrassed about asking their treating clinician to explain treatment plans. Patients often want to know if there are other options available for them and they don’t feel comfortable asking their treating clinicians. Often, patients or their carers will think of questions after a consultation and because they may not have another appointment for weeks (or months) they can call Pancare to ask us.”
“I enjoy being able to answer questions raised by patients and carers, and give them the support or advice that they need. It’s rewarding to be able to reassure them that they’re not alone and that the PanSupport team is here to help them in their cancer journey.”
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