Palliative care supports not only the patients, but also their families

Gus and Tina are soul mates. At ages 96 and 91 years old, they have had an amazing journey together. They are still living in the same home where they have spent 40 of the 70 years they’ve been married. It’s the home where they have celebrated many birthdays, anniversaries, hosted family Christmas dinners and made many more memories.

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Gus and Tina’s wedding

Both are children of Greek immigrants who had a tough childhood. Gus had to drop out of school to support the family. He later went on to get a GED and worked his way up from a factory worker to a supervisor. Tina spent time raising her family, but as the children needed less of her time and Gus decided to retire, she got her realtor’s license. Gus, meanwhile, was trying his hand at painting and soon filled up the walls with his art work.

But now both of them can barely walk. They need help with all of their basic needs like bathing, getting to the bathroom and dressing. Their memories are fading and they remember the “good old days” more clearly than what medications they take or even what they ate for breakfast.

For a long time, they relied on their children for help. Their daughter even moved in with them to take on the role of caregiver. But after more than a year, getting her parents to and from their doctor appointments got to be too much, and Gus and Tina’s primary physician set up a meeting with a palliative care specialist at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton to provide more support.

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Gus and Tina with their palliative care physician, Kavita Sharma, MD

The palliative care physician visited their home and went over everything with a fine-tooth comb. Medications that were absolutely needed were continued. The risks and benefits of other medications were addressed. Long and short-term goals were discussed, along with resources that were available in their community.

The palliative care team is now walking the journey with Gus and Tina’s children to help them make decisions about their parents’ health needs as their situation changes. They are not only supporting Gus and Tina as they “age in place” in their own home, but they’re also supporting their whole family, who can take comfort in knowing there is a plan in place and their loved ones are being well cared for.

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No retreat, no surrender

Brian Juech never imagined he’d have cancer by the age of 30.

He’d gone to see his primary physician for a regular checkup, when he suddenly remembered to bring up what he thought was a minor concern.

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Brian Juech shared his story at the 2017 Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer in Oconomowoc.

“It didn’t seem that important to me; I almost forgot to say anything at all.”

But it turned out his doctor was concerned, so much so that Brian was sent to a GI specialist at Aurora Medical Center in Summit.

A scary diagnosis and a fortunate discovery

“I had my first colonoscopy, and two masses were found,” he recalled. “They turned out to be stage 3 colon cancer.”

Brian had surgery to remove half his colon, and then he began six months of chemotherapy. It was a scary time, but he had great support from his family and caregivers.

“My oncologist, Dr. Adam Siegel, met with me and my family for hours. We also talked about my family history.”

At least five members of his mother’s family had had cancer. So Brian and his relatives underwent genetic testing and learned they had something called Lynch Syndrome, an inherited condition that increases a person’s risk for colon and other cancers.

The diagnosis and Brian’s experience led his mother and aunt to schedule early colonoscopies. It turned out to be a wise decision.

“My mother found out she had colon cancer,” said Brian. “Because of what I went through, she got the screening years before she was supposed to. Doctors caught it early though, and she was able to have it removed with surgery. And she didn’t need any other treatment.”

Now Brian is worried about how Lynch Syndrome could impact his own child.

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Brian (back row, far left) and his family at the Walk.

“What about my two-year-old son? It’s yet to be seen whether he has it, but at least we have the knowledge and the monitoring to make sure he knows if he has this condition and what to do about it.”

Forever grateful

There are two things Brian can’t forget about his battle with cancer.

“First, that I’m here today not only because I’m a cancer survivor, but also because of the wonderful care and treatment I received at Aurora,” he said. “And second is the support of my family and friends. Cancer makes you feel alone, but you never are. From my wife, Corena, who endured the ups and downs with me, who had my back no matter what, who kept us afloat when the water kept rising, to my parents who would sit at chemo with me and keep me company whenever I needed them, to my in-laws who helped by taking care of our son, to our friends who cooked us meals…I was never alone.”

Brian now lives by a couple of slogans. One he borrowed from his favorite baseball team, the Cubs: “Make someday today.” The other comes from a Bruce Springsteen song: “No retreat, no surrender.”

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Join the fight against cancer 

Sign up to participate or volunteer at the 30th annual Lombardi Walk/Run to Tackle Cancer in Milwaukee on July 22. Your participation includes free admission to Festa Italiana. But even more importantly, by joining the fight to tackle cancer, you will make a difference!

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Warriors go to battle and #tacklecancer

If you’re going to tackle cancer, you’ll want to have some warriors on your team. That’s why we’re so proud to have the “Sarcoma Warriors”, one of our most dedicated teams at the Lombardi Walk/Run to Tackle Cancer in Milwaukee.

In the last five years, these warriors have raised nearly $65,000 in the fight against cancer.

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Dr. Nicholas Webber (front row, far left) and his “Sarcoma Warriors” at the 2016 Lombardi Walk/Run to Tackle Cancer in Milwaukee

They are led by Nicholas Webber, MD, who specializes in orthopedic oncology, including the diagnosis and treatment of primary benign and malignant tumors of bone and soft tissue, or sarcomas.

Motivating patients and their families 

Many of the warriors on his team are his current and former patients. Dr. Webber credits those “star patients” for taking on a very active role in recruiting their friends and family members each year.

“Not only do I love to see all of the patients and their families together, I like to see all the new faces at the event,” said Dr. Webber. “When I’m there it really is not as a physician, but as someone supporting the patients who are dealing with their disease on a day when we can all be a part of something bigger than ourselves.”

LCRF_Logos_AllLocations_fnl-Milwaukee-ColorHow you can help

Sign up for the Lombardi Walk/Run to Tackle Cancer in Milwaukee on July 22, volunteer or donate at LombardiWalk.org. Money raised will support local cancer care and research initiatives by Aurora Cancer Care and is eligible for a 50 percent match from the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.

Thank you for your support!

 

Posted in Cancer care, Caregivers Give Back, Fundraising Events, INSPIRE Newsletter, Lombardi Walks to Tackle Cancer, Our Community Commitment, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A generous gift makes cancer care easier in Kenosha and Racine

Getting blood work done or having intravenous (IV) drug therapy isn’t always an easy process, especially for cancer patients. But a generous gift from the 2016 Infinity Ball will help make that process more comfortable for some.

From left to right: Paul and Beatrice Sebastian with Mary and James Santarelli, MD, at the 2016 Infinity Ball.

Patients may be weak or dehydrated from their condition and treatment, making their veins difficult to find. Nurses at Aurora Cancer Care Centers work diligently to locate a vein, but in some instances, may have to stick the patient three or four times before getting a needle into place. This can make an already challenging time even more painful. And if a nurse isn’t able to find a vein after multiple attempts, the patient is often sent home with instructions to hydrate and come back the next day, which can be time-consuming and inconvenient.

Thanks to a family from Kenosha, this no longer needs to be the case. Paul and Beatrice Sebastian generously donated $10,000 at the 2016 Infinity Ball to help fund an AccuVein® device, which uses infrared technology to show clinicians a map of a patient’s veins.

“I know enough people who have had cancer treatment to know that finding veins can be difficult,” explained Paul, whose son-in-law, James Santarelli, MD, is a family medicine provider at the Aurora Health Center in Kenosha. “I also know and trust the people who will be using the technology.”

In addition to the Sebastians’ generous gift, more than $12,000 was raised at the event, and now both the Aurora Cancer Care Centers in Kenosha and Racine have the devices.

“It sure worked well when the nurses needed it for me,” said Doris Magwitz, a cancer patient in Kenosha. “They tried twice, but couldn’t get any flow. That’s when they brought out the vein finder and it worked right away.”

Nurses and other clinicians are also happy with the new equipment.

“I have used the AccuVein® numerous times on patients who are challenging IV starts with great success,” said Patricia Laken, RN, at Aurora Cancer Care in Kenosha. “On all these patients I was able to start an IV on the first attempt, which greatly impacts patient satisfaction and reduces wasted nursing time on numerous IV attempts.”

This is just one example of the generosity of the Sebastian family and how donor dollars are helping to improve patient care. In 2015, the Sebastians also gave a gift to purchase equipment for the Cardiac Rehab department at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha.

“I had therapy there,” said Paul. “I like to donate to causes I’m familiar with and that I know will be good for patients.”

We are extremely grateful to the Sebastians and other attendees of the 2016 Infinity Ball who are making life a little easier for our family members, friends and loved ones battling cancer. This year’s Infinity Ball will be held Saturday, October 14.

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#TackleCancer to make a difference

OCONOMOWOC – You could say Angela Sampson is good at getting things organized.

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Angela and her husband, Dennis

She’s a medical dosimetrist at Aurora Medical Center in Summit, so she does the treatment planning for all patients receiving radiation therapy.

She says she’s often referred to as the wizard behind the curtain.

“I tell the radiation where to go and what to avoid. We are a small group of people with a very specialized skill set and we truly love what we do.”

That ability to come up with a plan came in handy last year when she helped recruit more than 75 people to join her team for the first-ever Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer in Oconomowoc. She organized the entire Radiation Oncology department, along with their patients and loved ones.

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Angela’s team at the 2016 Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer in Oconomowoc

For Angela, it’s important to show those patients that the staff really does care.

“I walk for our patients. I, along with my co-workers, take great pride in creating the best patient experience possible, especially given the tough situation our patients are in,” she shared. “Not a day goes by that our team isn’t making a difference in someone’s life.”

How you can help

Sign up for one of 10 Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer events near you. Money raiseLCRF_Logos_AllLocations_fnl-Summit-Colord will support local cancer care and research initiatives by Aurora Cancer Care and is eligible for a 50 percent match from the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.

All proceeds from the Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer will stay local. To see all walk locations and join the team, go to LombardiWalk.org.

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Donors help build a new home for behavioral health in Sheboygan County

The new Aurora Behavioral Health Center finally has a home in Sheboygan County! The building opened earlier this year and will expand vital behavioral health services to Sheboygan County and the surrounding area. Donors, including ACUITY, supported the Light the Way campaign, a $700,000 effort to help make this new behavioral health and wellness center a reality.

This new facility will house group therapies such as an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for those struggling with substance abuse, a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) for those dealing with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, etc. and other Aurora Health Care group counseling services in addition to being a resource for community groups.

Here’s why this is so important: One in four individuals in the U.S. will face a behavioral health issue in their lifetime. Aurora Health Care recognized from the 2014 Community Conversation on Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse that the need in Sheboygan County and surrounding area is great. That’s why we launched the Light the Way campaign and we are so grateful to have such incredible community support!

 

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Support survivors like Patsy and help #TackleCancer

TWO RIVERS – When you consider the risk factors, Patsy Walesh wasn’t supposed to get breast cancer. She didn’t have a family history, she breastfed four healthy babies and even went through early menopause.

But in June of 2013, Patsy found a lump while doing a self-exam. And while she was surprised, she also felt a sense of gratitude that she had a good doctor who had coached her on the importance of self-exams, so she knew what to look for.

A tough journey

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Patsy shared her story at the first-ever Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer in Two Rivers in 2016

She ended up being diagnosed with stage 2B, and it had spread to several lymph nodes. She had multiple surgeries, including a lumpectomy and a partial mastectomy. In addition, she endured four months of chemotherapy and had radiation every day, for a total of 36 rounds.

She admits it wasn’t easy and that some days were just bad.

“I got kind of beat up in there,” she said.

Support all around

Patsy is so thankful for the care she received at the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic in Two Rivers and the staff that treated and supported her.

“I have such high respect for the whole team. The nurses were excellent, so kind and caring and always lifting your spirits.”

In addition, her family was by her side the whole way – one person, in particular, quite literally.

“My brother-in-law, Blaine, was battling cancer for a second time and he was getting treatment right beside me,” explained Patsy.

She’s been in remission for three years now, which is significant for the type of cancer she had. It’s very aggressive and it likes to come back, quickly and with a vengeance. The return rate is typically within the first three years, so the fact that Patsy made it this long cancer-free is remarkable.

“This cancer is like a cheetah. It’s a sprinter, but it doesn’t have stamina for a long haul.”

Giving back

After her treatment, Patsy knew she wanted to join the fight against cancer. She got her chance when the Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer came to Two Rivers last year. Not only did she help gather more than two dozen of her friends and family to walk, she also spoke at the event and volunteered to take pictures.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you have a connection. It doesn’t go away when your cancer goes away. I know it can happen to anybody,” Patsy shared.

Volunteering is something that’s very important to her. She worked in a nursing home, where her job relied on people who donated their time. She believes she’ll be a volunteer herself one day.

“I have this mindset; I have to give back in some way. Once I’m retired and have more time available, I’ll go back and volunteer. No one should sit there alone if they don’t want to.”

Patsy’s family is inspired by her story too.

“My daughter is going to school to be a nurse. I know it’s part of her career path” she said. “Out of our darkest days, beautiful things can come.”

How yLCRF_Logos_AllLocations_fnl-Manitowoc-Colorou can help

Sign up for a Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer event near you. Money raised will support local cancer care and research initiatives by Aurora Cancer Care and is eligible for a 50 percent match from the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.

All proceeds from the Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer will stay local. To see all walk locations and join the team, go to LombardiWalk.org.

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