The Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is an extremely valuable member of a Leukaemia patients medical team. They work closely with a patients consultant and are present throughout the whole process even during post treatment clinics for several years. These nurses are highly qualified in Haematological cancers and have many years experience at a high level. They are very knowledgeable in all Leukaemias, the treatments, side effects and all issues relating to it. When you are first diagnosed you should be introduced to one within the first few days.
Macmillan fund the first two years salary for all new CNS nurse posts, after this the NHS trust takes on this cost. Macmillan are also responsible for funding the Cancer Recovery Package which is still in its infancy but I won’t go into what this is now.
Here is how my Macmillan CNS helped us
At one point I was barely conscious with lots of complications and my Mum was seriously worried so she rang Tracy and after speaking to her felt very reassured, something she has never forgotten. When I was devastated to hear that I needed a fourth cycle of intense chemotherapy she helped us to understand the reasoning behind it and spoke to my consultant about my fears meaning that I went ahead with it which I now know was crucial. Another time when my daughter was being bullied at school about my cancer she advised on how to deal with it and supported my husband. These are just a few examples of how she helped us. I have contacted her numerous times since finishing my treatment with various questions and fears.I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when Tracy first walked into my hospital room and luckily she hasn’t held it against me! She was a huge support to my husband and family before I really noticed her as I was so poorly! What I do remember was her manner, always smiling, calm and reassuring. At such a dark time it gave me and my family the confidence that the care and treatment I was having was going to save my life! She knew the answers to every single question no matter how random and now I know her story I am so grateful to her and Macmillan.
I wanted to share a little about the background of my Macmillan CNS nurse Tracy Connor and how she became a Macmillan nurse because it is wonderful to know that what she does is very close to her heart, she truly cares for her patients and I believe this is probably the same for many like her.
Tracy started her nurse training at the age of 27 having had a variety of jobs including clerical, dental receptionist, mothers help and voluntary worker with heroin addicts in Hong Kong!
“I loved my training and every single area I worked on I thought ‘this is what I want to specialise in’. In the third year I worked on a ward with patients diagnosed with haematology cancers and found it really interesting and rewarding. Thus began my passion for haematology! Around the same time I met the retired army major who worked in the Macmillan fundraising office which I walked past most days on my from the nurses home down to the wards. This is when I decided that I wanted to be a Macmillan Nurse! Everything I did from thereon in was with this aim in sight!”
“Nowadays, in order to apply for a Macmillan post one has to meet the essential criteria of; 2 – 5 years experience working at a junior sisters level or above in a relevant cancer setting; have a post registration qualification in cancer; a first degree and either working towards an MSc degree or have a MSc.”
“When I went for the job (16 years ago) I had worked as the ward sister of the haematology ward for 5 years; had a qualification in haematology and bone marrow transplantation. At the time I applied you had to be working towards a first degree which I was. Prior to being the ward sister I had been a junior staff nurse and senior staff nurse on a haematology ward, set up The Medical Day Unit and been a junior sister on the haematology ward. I had to apply for and be interviewed for all of these posts…a lot of work! But worth it as in my opinion I have the best job in nursing! I feel so privileged to be able to work with people at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. I have met so many lovely people over the years (including Anna and her family!).”
“I am now in my third year of my MSc in Mindfulness Studies and have qualified as a Mindfulness Meditation Teacher. I am going to teach my first 8 week course to patients starting in April this year.”
I have so much respect and admiration for Tracy and am so lucky to have her at my side on this cancer journey!
I am sure there are many other CNS’s out there like Tracy and being part of the Bloodwise patient community I have heard many similar stories. They really are invaluable, a calm and reliable influence at a time when your world has fallen apart. Experts in their field and the most caring and selfless people you will ever come across their role in a cancer patient’s treatment and life after is highly important. I know that I would not have coped without her and neither would my family. The long term mental effects of going through cancer treatment is not something that is widely recognised, there is a big misconception that once treatment ends that’s it…you go back to life and its all happy days. I have found that nothing could be further from the truth. Tracy had played a big part in my psychological recovery.
Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to hear from you, please comment below…
(photo credit – Macmillan photographer)