On The Wings of Angels: An Interview with Cindi Cantril, RN, OCN, MPH

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 8, Volume 14, Issue 1

Cindi Cantril, RN, OCN, MPH, remembers only the eyes of her patients.

WINNER OF THE 2014 EXTRAORDINARY HEALER AWARD FOR ONCOLOGY NURSING

CINDI CANTRIL, RN, OCN, MPH, remembers only the eyes of her patients.

She was 15 and volunteering with patients who had head and neck cancer while her mother was finishing her nursing degree. Their heads had been bandaged completely after surgery, so they couldn’t speak. Only their eyes told her what they needed. It was the moment that she says she knew she wanted to speak for cancer patients.

SHE ENTERED nursing school as soon as she graduated from high school, beginning her advocacy then and continuing it today as the Clinical Breast Care Nurse for Sutter Health in Santa Rosa, California. She is also the 2014 recipient of CURE’s Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing.

“My mother finished nursing school at 51, and I worked at the hospital as a volunteer when I was a teenager; my very first support group had patients with cancer on the roof of their mouth, melanoma, thyroid cancer, ovarian cancer.”

Cindi didn’t care. It was a sacred space to her patients and to her, a place where people were heard

Today, Cindi meets breast cancer patients and sets them up for biopsies. She is also the one who tells them they have breast cancer.

“I know the words I say are going to change her life,” she says. “I tell them what I think the next six months will look like and then focus on now.”

Ann Tallman [left] with Cynthia Cantril, RN, OCN, MPH

She is grateful that she meets them before the diagnosis because it gives her a chance to see who they are and gauge how well they will take the news.

“It’s a dance because I have to read them. Before the biopsy I can determine how well she will handle it when I tell her.”

As part of her work, she has established a monthly support group called WINGS—Women Inspiring, Nurturing, Giving, Supporting, where women can gather to talk about where they are and how they are. Trained volunteers work one-on-one with the patients and are available for calls and with their time. She also began an equestrian program for the patients.

“We had breast cancer survivors come to the barn for an hour for two weeks. They said cancer was so big that when they felt confident around a 1,200-pound animal, they felt more in control of the cancer,” she says.

It’s the size, she adds, that helps patients learn to be in the present and not think about chemotherapy. Instead, they are aware of the massive animal nuzzling their arm. Cindi and her staff train volunteers on an ongoing basis and then, because they know them, they can match them with newly diagnosed patients.

Cindi is not modest when it comes to understanding that she has a gift. Rather, she understands it is her job to recognize her gift, nurture it and respect it—and use it with her patients to guide them through the breast cancer journey.