Lael Swank was diagnosed with stage IIB, grade III breast cancer in March 2010, shortly after her 39th birthday. During her treatment at Fox Chase, Lael and her close friend, Linda, started a CarePage to document her journey and keep all of their family and friends connected. Below, Lael explains in her own words how her CarePage began and how it’s helped her on the road to recovery.
As you know, the journey through cancer diagnosis and treatment is not just experienced by the patient, but by all the family and friends who love him or her. They want to know how treatments are going, how the patient is feeling, and what will happen next. CarePages is a free, private, personalized website where patients or caregivers can post updates and photos, as well as receive messages from loved ones. This is a great tool to keep everyone in the know at once, like in Lael’s care.
If you or a loved one is going through cancer diagnosis, treatment, or are now cancer-free and want an outlet to express yourself and document this experience, I encourage you to check out our CarePages.
Be well, Bob
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2010, it was definitely a shock since I didn’t have any history of breast cancer in my family. My local doctor suggested that I go to Fox Chase after my initial diagnosis to receive further care, and I couldn’t be happier that I did. My care team and I made a treatment plan together which made me feel comfortable and confident. But all of my family and friends weren’t in the exam room with me, so they had a lot of questions about what was going on.
While I did put some updates on Facebook, I didn’t want to put the nitty-gritty details there. In this age of social media, you have 850 friends on Facebook, and they have 650 friends, which makes it hard to control who sees what you post. Facebook to me was somewhere that I could vent, but I needed a different place to explain the whole story of my recovery.
My sister, Kellie, knew that I was getting bombarded with all of these questions, and didn’t want me to have to worry about explaining everything over and over again while trying to deal with treatment. Kellie decided to ask my best friend Linda if I would be interested in starting a CarePage of my own. This would give everyone one central place to go for answers and give me the ability to control who was viewing my updates. When they asked me, I said, “Sounds good, but I’m not writing it!” So, my friend Linda agreed to be the voice of the page for me.
“My CarePage could be updated from the surgical waiting room at Fox Chase, which allowed everyone to be updated at once.”
We started my page in April, after diagnosis but before I had my bilateral mastectomy and TRAM reconstruction. I’ve never been one to keep a journal, and having Linda document my journey for me has been such a blessing. My cancer treatment was my main priority, so it really lightened my load to have Linda writing everything down. At the time of my surgery in May, everybody just wanted to know when I was out of surgery and how I was doing. I didn’t have to field many phone calls or messages because Linda was able to update my CarePage from the waiting room (free WiFi!) at Fox Chase instead. That was a huge relief.
Linda also posts things that I’ve talked to her about, things that I’ve vented to her about, and all the important milestones along the way. I always refer back to my page for dates, like my first and last chemo treatments. It was so special to have surprise photos counting down to my last chemo posted weekly on the site; especially ones of my brother who is away at college. And for that last treatment, I decided to go out in style, like a princess. I put on a tiara and pink boa, and Linda posted pictures of my husband and me online. Everybody loved it and it brought some happiness to a difficult situation. We even got footage of that day featured on ABC’s Good Morning America!
I’d absolutely recommend starting a Care Pages site to anyone going through this experience. Even if you don’t have the energy to write one yourself, you can ask a close family member or friend to help you. Sharing my cancer through the CarePage with my best friend Linda has been quite the journey. It’s been an amazing outlet for us to share our frustrations and triumphs with my loved ones. Linda and I are still posting away, and I can’t wait to get to another milestone for my last day of radiation when I ring the bell!
Doctors and patients at Fox Chase can attest to the invaluable role of nurses in the treatment of any disease. We rely on nurses not only for their wealth of knowledge in medicine but also their compassionate care and support. The city of Philadelphia has taken notice of how important this profession is, as well, and its significant changes over the years in the new mural The Evolving Face of Nursing.
In October 2010, the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia completed a 6,500 square foot mural at the intersection of Broad and Vine Streets to celebrate the nurses at the many prominent healthcare facilities and medical schools in our city. We were thrilled to learn that one of our own nurses at Fox Chase had been chosen to appear in this important artistic and cultural project.
Agnes Masny, RN, MPH, MSN, CRNP, a nurse practitioner and genetics nursing educator in the Department of Clinical Genetics, is one of 100 nurses captured by nationally renowned artist Meg Saligman. During her 21 year career, Agnes has counseled individuals at risk for cancer and educated patients and their families about what their genetic risk means. She has also published several articles on this topic. Her inclusion in The Evolving Face of Nursing is a testament to her impressive career and her hard work.
When asked how she felt about her face being displayed for the world to see:
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be featured on that mural. The artists made me look young, which was very nice,” she jokingly added.
The mural truly captures the heart of the nursing profession through portraits and written word, from the traditional nurse of the past to today’s tech-savvy practitioner. I hope that the project has brought an increased awareness to these dedicated men and women and the progress of medicine in our Philadelphia community. If you are in the area, I encourage you to drive past the piece at Broad and Vine twice; the mural displays a different set of pictures in the daytime and at night due to the use of special paint and LED lights. It is quite the visual experience!
Read the Daily News feature on this program.