Women in Worcestershire with secondary breast cancer are benefiting from a specialist nurse who helps them through the complex journey of treatments and emotions.
Lynne Colbourne, an experienced chemotherapy, oncology and cancer nurse specialist is employed in by St Richard’s Hospice to work in partnership with Worcestershire Royal Hospital. (WRH)
Lynne can often be involved from the first meeting when a woman is given the diagnosis of secondary breast cancer and says people react very differently.
“Patients are told very honestly that the cancer will never go away totally but there are treatments that can be offered to try and shrink or contain it and stop it spreading to other areas and improve symptoms so they are not getting any pain. “
“Some people go on to live for many years. For example, if someone has cancer which has spread to the bones and they have treatment that contains it, improves the symptoms and they are not getting pain then they can go to work, look after the children and go on holiday if that’s what they want. At some point the cancer may get worse again, and they are offered more treatment. “
“Often a first major worry for someone is how they will pay the bills and mortgage or concerns their employer will make them redundant. I can help them through that maze by connecting them to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau worker at St Richard’s, who helps with issues on finance and benefits. I also link them with the hospice physiotherapists and occupational therapists, our family support team for counselling and social work and any other services which I think will benefit them.”
Lynne meets patients on wards in the Worcester Royal and also as outpatients there. “I introduce myself and talk about my role and start getting to know them and their needs so I can be a key link. I think that’s the main difference for patients since I have taken on the role. Previously at diagnosis appointments they wouldn’t have had a nurse specialist with them when they hear results. Now they can phone me and say, ‘I can’t remember a word of what I was told’ and I can talk them through it. They now have one person they can contact rather than not knowing where to start. I might not always have the answers but I will try and find someone who might. “
“Although their illness is life-limiting the time scales over which we will see patients can be very wide. We might see a patient treated for primary breast cancer, return with secondary cancer six months later, and others 15 or 20 years down the line. Treatments have advanced so much there is often something to offer. “
Lynne says lots of women want advice on issues such as weight gain, exercise, menopausal symptoms and nutrition, all of which she, or other hospice team members, are able to help with.
Dr Chris Price, Consultant Medical Oncologist of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, explained, “In Worcestershire we are extremely fortunate to have Lynne Colbourne working with us; she is a very experienced cancer nurse who has adapted to her new role brilliantly, providing a bridge between the hospital and the well-established support services provided by St Richard’s Hospice. As well as giving information and advice, Lynne is a very real practical support and helps patients who attend my clinic in innumerable ways, often telephoning them before or after clinic, spending time with them after difficult consultations, liaising with their families or chasing scan appointments and results. She is a genuine friend and ally and is always rooting for her patients. She is a victim of her own success; we wonder how we managed before she joined our team and already we need two of her.”