Palliative Care: The Superheroes of Oncology

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After seeing how palliative care helped me through cancer, I now advocate for these services to other patients.

Cartoon image of blogger and metastatic breast cancer survivor, Elizabeth McSpadden

Palliative care — which is not end-of-life care, unless someone chooses it to be — is a supportive care system to help with cancer symptoms and manage the lifestyle that is a part of this diagnosis. This includes all the problems, challenges, issues and questions about your diagnosis.

My experience has been amazing with my palliative care doctor. I wish I had known sooner about how amazing this extra VIP service is; If there is one VIP service or perk, call it this.

I have metastatic breast cancer, and eventually sought out help because my back pain was awful after undergoing a lumbar puncture. I also had severe gastrointestinal issues in my colon. Palliative care not only suggested various pain management options, but also gave me fantastic options for when my colon needs help, such as senna (an oral drug to treat constipation) plusSmooth Move tea. The palliative care team gave me instructions on how to best use these to treat my issues.

The other amazing part of palliative care is that when I was hospitalized, the oncology team as well as staff knew I had a palliative care doctor, so they made sure to contact her and her staff in case I needed pain medications or other things. I didn't have to ask or vocalize, it was just a given because at the hospital system, if you are part of palliative care, they make sure to respect your oncology needs.

I learned that palliative care can give you pain management, help with nausea, depression, anxiety, appetite and even just the overall management of life with cancer. If cancer is just overwhelming, they can help assist in figuring out which parts to make easier and break down. They understand all the elements of cancer and how they can impact people’s lives. In my eyes, they are superheroes to help us while we battle these wars.

I have to say I had no idea what this road would lead to, nor did I think palliative care would change my oncology needs for the better. Yet here I am telling many of my cancer friends it could help them and am blogging about it to all of you. It's a perk worth advocating about and sharing with the world. Mainly, I hope someone reading this can get help and relief. Cancer is so hard already, and we all need as much help as we can get.

It's been about six months since I started with palliative care, and I am so grateful for them. They have kept me well stocked in what I need to feel more comfortable, helped me find other doctors, voice concerns about some side effects to my doctors and continue to help manage my network of 20-something doctors.

At the end of the day, we all need help and support — which is exactly what palliative care is.

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