In April, Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC) oncology RN, Stacy Theriault, posed a question to NMMC pharmacist, Dustin Butler. “What if we do something special on the last day of a successful chemotherapy regime.” Butler never hesitated. Coincidentally, oncology patient, Louise Dionne was due to have her last chemotherapy treatment later that same week.
When Dionne came in, the oncology and pharmacy staff coordinated the surprise celebration. Since Dionne was accustomed to seeing the pharmacy staff on a regular basis, she thought nothing of the staff coming in to see her in the treatment room. What she did not expect was hugs, a round of applause, photographs and the presentation of a single red rose.
Going through chemotherapy is something that only those who go through it can possibly understand. It can be a short course of treatment, but most often it is several weeks and even months of emotional turmoil and at times physical illness. It is a very vulnerable time for patients and a time when they need all the support they can get. Said Butler, “We knew we wanted to do something special. At first we didn’t really know how the celebration would be received.” He went on to say, “After the first couple of times, everyone involved really enjoyed it so right then we decided we would do it for all patients who complete a successful course of therapy.” Caregivers develop unique relationships with their patients, and gestures such as this one is one way to process their own emotions around the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
The idea caught on quickly and the Welcome Desk staff got involved as well. Gail Lamarr, NMMC’s Volunteer Program Coordinator played the song, Happy, and actually danced with Dionne right out to the front door of the main lobby on the day she completed the cancer treatment. NMMC plans to make the celebration part of the patient experience for all successful chemotherapy.
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