HOPE: A Sisterhood of Cancer Patients

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 9, Volume 9, Issue 1

An essay honoring Alison Moore, RN, BSN [Chattanooga's Program In Women's Oncology In Whitwell, Tennessee]

Alison Moore, RN, BSN, OCN, holding a photo of Helen Lee - PHOTO BY SERGIO PLECAS

I first met Alison Moore in 2012 when I was diagnosed with stage IIIc ovarian cancer. Prior to our meeting, I was well aware that Alison must be a leader in her field because I was told by her coworkers, as well as by other patients and caregivers, that if I had any needs or questions, I should consult Alison. It became apparent that this was not only an individual who was knowledgeable, but who was also extremely approachable.

As time passed and our interaction grew, I learned from my observations of her with her colleagues that she is eager to share her expertise and her ideas, to brainstorm ways to assist patients in need, and to volunteer to stay late with anyone who needs additional fluids or medication. Her car can be perpetually seen in the parking lot of the oncology office, as she stays late to work on getting insurance approval or to find other ways of helping those with specific needs. These traits are hallmarks of her reputation.

One of the most impressive qualities that Alison continually exhibits is her positive attitude. Although she has challenges in her life (as we all do), she maintains a cheerfulness that is contagious to her patients. When I (or any of the other patients) go to Alison to ask for assistance with a need, her response is always the same: “I would be most happy to do that.”

Her love for her patients is obvious. She shows it through her many acts of kindness and by anticipating needs before anyone even asks. She has done this for me personally on many occasions. Because of the large number of patients that need to be seen on Mondays at the oncologycenter, patients are assigned arrival times. Some are to come in the morning while others arrive in the afternoon. I was first assigned as an afternoon arrival, but during my most recent round of treatments I have needed extra potassium and magnesium, so my arrival time has now been changed to accommodate my needs. However, in the beginning someone had to stay late with me to ensure that I received the proper amount of electrolytes. Of course, Alison volunteered and acted as if it were her pleasure to do so — just one of her many selfless acts I have seen.

I have had to be hospitalized several times within the past few months and have utilized two of the three major area hospitals. The nurses at both hospitals had glowing praise about Alison, such as, “When we get Alison’s patients, they come to us well prepared. Their paperwork is done properly and in a timely fashion, and their ports are accessed. We love getting her patients.”As you can see, Alison enjoys the respect of patients, caregivers and colleagues. In addition to her other commendable qualities, she exhibits a pleasing personality that radiates warmth and understanding. She continually searches for ways to nurture all of her patients, especially those who are just embarking on this frightening new journey of chemotherapy treatment. When a patient’s treatment plan includes chemotherapy, Alison goes into the exam room to meet the patient and family, and answer any questions they may have to gain insight into the attitudes, emotions and fears they may be experiencing.

It is at this time that she enrolls the new patient in her unannounced program called HOPE, which is an acronym for How Oncology Patients (are) Encouraged. There is no open promotion, application or enrollment form for this program. It is simply the product of Alison’s insight into patient needs. She begins working after that initial meeting to strategically schedule the newly diagnosed patient’s first chemotherapy appointment with other patients who are undergoing the same type of chemotherapy for a gynecological cancer. Although all of the doctors and nurses are extremely knowledgeable about cancer treatment and side-effect management, the experienced chemotherapy patient has been exactly where the newly diagnosedpatient is now. She remembers what it is like to receive the diagnosis of cancer, what it is like to have a treatment plan explained that includes chemotherapy, and what it is like to sit in that chemotherapy chair for the first time. Alison realizes that the experienced patient is the best mentor for the new patient.

HOPE often starts something like this: “Hello my name is Susie, and this is Ann. Over there is Deb, and this lady is Mary. Is this your first chemotherapy treatment?” And from there HOPE begins. HOPE that this new patient is not alone. HOPE that other ladies going and who have gone through this fight are winning. HOPE that she too can win this battle. Alison watches as these experienced patients “take in” the newcomer and love and support her through her treatment. She sees the new patient begin to relax, at times just listening, and at times asking questions. The new patient always becomes a part of the group, and Alison has succeeded in ensuring that another patient has been adopted into the sisterhood of HOPE.

And while it may not be the next treatment or the next, at some point the new patient transforms into the experienced patient. She becomes the mentor for the next newcomer, and HOPE continues. It becomes a perpetual lifeline to the next woman who needs HOPE.

Allison’s talents, her dedication to oncology nursing and her love for her patients are extraordinary. She is highly intelligent, and her credentials are indicative of her determination to be well informed on matters pertaining to her field. She also manages to balance her professional and personal lives by being very involved with the activities of her children and teaching a Sunday school class with her husband. These are only a few of the reasons she enjoys the respect and admiration of those who know and work with her. She is a powerful force in the oncology nursing arena and is a dynamic and committed professional who takes her task seriously and is an inspiration to others. She anticipates the needs of others and responds in a timely manner. There is no stopping. There is no second best. There is no partially completed task. She has been and will continue to be a true master oncology nurse. I look forward to seeing all that she will achieve in the future — and the many lives she will bring HOPE to.