By Hayley Leonard – The Guardian.
Every day at the Royal Marsden, I see the impact of cancer treatment on people’s quality of life.
I get up at 5.30am and get into work for 7.30am. It’s early but it gives me the chance to get through my paperwork in the morning and catch up on emails, before all the patients come in.
After that, most of my morning is spent in the outpatient clinic, seeing people who have had a bone marrow transplant. It’s a busy clinic and normally I’d see about seven or eight patients in a morning.
For people with leukaemia and other blood cancers and disorders, their bone marrow transplant has given them a chance of life they would never have had, but sometimes this can also come with some late effects, which can vary hugely between patients.
Some are more straightforward, so it’s just a case of checking in quickly. Others are more complicated – their effects might be physical, such as a condition called graft versus host (GVH) disease, which can affect the gut, lungs, skin and other organs, or even psychological or social issues around work, education and finances. Whatever their concerns and wherever they are in their journey, I sit down with them to find out what’s been going on and try to get them the help they need.
The issues people face immediately after a transplant are very different from those who are experiencing longer-term effects, in the same way that young patients might have very different experiences from older patients, so I tailor my support to the individual.
At two years post-transplant, if someone is still having chronic issues, it may have come to a point where this is going to be their life and it’s about supporting them through that realisation, helping them to adjust to their change in lifestyle and find a new normality with the support they need.
On the other hand, a month after a transplant, ordinarily the patient would still be in hospital, but we’re starting to see more recent recipients as outpatients – this could be because of advances in the supportive care they’re getting and the way we’re looking after them.
I’m an honest and tactful person so I try to prepare people from the beginning for the journey ahead and let them know how we can help them. It’s not just about supporting patients and families through difficult times, it’s also about educating and empowering them to look after themselves and getting their lives back on track…read more.