Beyond Survival

Nancy Callender’s darkest days came after she thought her journey with breast cancer was over.

The surgery, radiation and chemotherapy were complete and it was time to focus on healing. But for the first time in her journey with the disease, she felt ill at ease.

“I was so used to seeing the doctors and the nurses, feeling so very looked after and cared for, and then you’re done and the panic sets in,” says Nancy. “It was like I was free-falling. They’re not there and your mind starts to wander.”

Before she could panic and worry about what would happen next, embrace, Sanford Cancer Survivorship Program, helped her transition into life after cancer.

Charting her course

For the first time since the 57-year-old woman found the lump in her breast that would change her world, she found herself on the path to the life she wanted. Sanford Health’s embrace Survivorship Clinic gave her support and tools to build her life after cancer.

“It was exactly what I needed,” says Nancy. “I am changed mentally and physically. I live my life differently today.”

The embrace program and Sanford’s Survivorship Clinic came out of a process of talking to Sanford Cancer survivors about what they needed most in the days and years after their treatment ended, says Dr. Shelby Terstriep, embrace Medical Director.

Like Nancy, many said they had more concern and need for services after their days of active treatment were done. Friends, family and workplaces expect them to be ready to get back into day-to-day life at a time when they were dealing with the physical, emotional and financial effects of treating their disease.

Individualized needs

“Cancer treatment doesn’t end when your treatment is done,” says Dr. Terstriep. “We care about each patient as a person, about individual needs and rehabilitation. We want our patient to get back to their best life after cancer treatment.”

The program was designed to

  • Connect survivors with each other through support groups, classes and social media websites.
  • Educate survivors and caregivers about resources available through an interactive website and education series
  • Empower survivors to health through a comprehensive survivorship clinic, volunteer opportunities and survivor events.
  • In the days after she got the good news that her body was now cancer free, Nancy struggled with fear that her cancer could re-occur. At the same time, she had pain and numbness in her hands and aches in her knees. And she just wasn’t sure if it would ever go away.

    Her healthcare team suggested that she schedule an appointment at embrace, Sanford’s Survivorship Clinic. The half-day she spent there changed her post-cancer life, Nancy says.

    “It was the best four hours I have ever spent,” says Nancy. “You come there and you see a physician, dietician and physical therapist. I didn’t feel rushed.”

    She got a personalized treatment plan that included physical therapy to help with the residual pain. But more importantly she received emotional support from a psychologist who helped her work through her anxiety and process the experience she had been through.

    Patients who are undergoing cancer treatment or have completed their cancer care should talk to their healthcare providers about embrace Cancer Survivorship Services, says Dr. Terstriep.

    Survivorship experts

    The team at embrace, Sanford’s Survivorship Clinic, includes physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, dieticians, physical therapists, chaplains and volunteers, offering cancer survivors a “one-stop shop” for post treatment care, says Dr. Terstriep.

    An appointment includes a tailored questionnaire to assess each cancer survivor’s emotional and physical needs, a physical exam, a customized prescription for nutrition and exercise, and recommendations for further follow-up.

    “We can really hone in on what each individual patient needs,” says Dr. Terstriep. “We’re here to take the time to listen and help with all of those practical things to allow patients to move forward and lead the very best possible life.”

    oday, thanks to embrace, Nancy feels better than ever, in every way. She made the choice to move from full to part-time work to give her more time to focus on family and friends. She loves to sew and takes the time for bird watching.

    “I’ve learned to do the things that give me great peace, to pay attention to the little things, which really are big things,” says Nancy. “I have a happy life. I really do.”

    Posted Date: September 2013

    Beyond Survival

    After Nancy Callender’s treatment for breast cancer was done, she knew she was supposed to celebrate, but instead she felt like she was “free falling.” How would embrace Cancer Survivorship Clinic help her make a transition to a good life after cancer?