Celebrating During Cancer Treatment
The Emily Couric Cancer Center can be a tough place for staff to work and an even harder place for patients to be. Yet this team of caretakers found a way to celebrate in spite of difficulties by throwing a party for a deserving patient.
Cupcakes, balloons, presents, and prostate cancer treatment? You may not think these things go together, yet the Nuclear Medicine staff in the Emily Couric Cancer Center (ECCC) combined them all during a recent appointment to celebrate a milestone in the life of an extraordinary patient.
Thomas* has an advanced form of prostate cancer; it has metastasized—or spread—to his bones. His cancer was not responding to medical or surgical treatments any longer. So Thomas began Xofigo ™ (Ra-223 chloride) treatments, a form of therapy that uses a radioactive drug (Ra-223) to deliver a very localized radiation to tumor sites in bones. Medical trials have shown that Ra-223 chloride treatment can extend the life of patients with prostate cancer that has spread to the bones. The Ra-223 treatment is done as an outpatient, and consists of six intravenous injections, one every four weeks.
When Thomas showed up for his sixth and final injection, he was in for a huge surprise. Staff had gathered with cupcakes, balloons, and tokens. “Each staff member present had interacted with Thomas every time he’d been to Nuclear Medicine,” said Angela, the Nuclear Medicine technologist who organized the event. “We work in a very small department. It’s one of those places where everyone knows your name.”
Almost every member of the Nuclear Medicine team was there to support Thomas. Unfortunately, Dr. Robert Dreicer, his medical oncologist, was out of town and was unable to attend, but Dr. Patrice Rehm, head of Nuclear Medicine, was present.
Thomas walked into the room and the staff burst into applause. They gave him their small gifts along with their hugs. He looked at the cupcakes and asked, “Can I pack a few of those up for my grandbabies?”
Thomas’s wife Susan* was thrilled about what the staff had done. “Susan thinks our department is a welcoming place to come, if you have to be at a hospital,” said Angela.
Though Thomas is finished with his Xofigo treatments, he still comes to UVA for regular follow ups with his oncologist. He promised he’d be back soon to visit the people in Nuclear Medicine.
*Names changed to protect the privacy of the patient and his family.