Health Magazine

Radiation Oncology as a Visitor

Posted on the 22 March 2012 by Jean Campbell

radiationSitting in the radiation oncology waiting room with a dear friend on his first day of treatment brought back a lot of memories.

First and foremost, it brought back memories of my own radiation treatment, 13 years ago, for my first breast cancer. Second, it took me back to the days I spent in New York City hospital radiation clinics when I was patient navigator.

The radiation oncology waiting area of this major cancer center bears little resemblance to the basement of a community hospital where I waited each day, for six +weeks, to be called in for treatment. It bears even less resemblance to the radiation oncology waiting areas where I met with patients as a navigator. This waiting room has the appearance of a corporate lobby. It is decorated in soft shades of beige and lime green with lots of light wood paneling. Its soft lights, classical music, comfortable chairs, wall hangings and fully equipped coffee bar offers patients a non-clinical, comfortable environment in which to wait. It disarms new patients who are expecting to see a cold, clinical setting. What else might they expect of a treatment area that is located in the basement, or, as this center’s staff refers to the location, the lower level?

The similarities of the radiation experience were unmistakable though.

I recognized the look of fear I used to see on the faces of  new patients. Also evident…the worn look I remember on the faces of those doing radiation following a course of chemo. On the positive side, people on a set time for daily treatment get to know one another. They come in, get something to drink and a snack and start talking with their “radiation buddies.” This comaraderie makes the  the weeks of radiation treatment a bit easier.

There is a gentler way since I was a radiation patient. Your name isn’t called out over a loud speaker, or by a lady at a reception desk. No, a staff person, part of a patient’s treatment team, comes into the waiting area to escort the patient to treatment. There is more good news; tattooing takes less  time as does the set up on the first day of treatment.

Also new since I was a patient…the Patient Advocate. I hope it is not just this center that has a Patient Advocate. I hope there are advocates in all the cancer centers.

I watch the Patient Advocate as she works the radiation waiting room, introducing herself, putting people at their ease, answering questions and directing patients to the free services within radiation oncology. She speaks to my friend, sharing that she is a survivor. She tells him about social work services and meeting with a nutritionist about what to eat during treatment. She also gives him information on the additional services of the cancer center including a workshop and support group for his specific cancer.

My friend comes out of his first treatment session with a look of relief on his face. He shares that his radiation team is friendly and informative.

To Be Continued…The Treatment Team


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