Cancer Survivorship Program helps patients regain control of their health

Paula Harrelson, RN

Thanks to the advancements being made in the treatment of cancer, people are living longer following a cancer diagnosis. In addition to hope and happiness, however, this “life after cancer” can also bring feelings of uncertainty, doubt and even fear.

That’s where the Cancer Survivorship Program at Touro can help. Launched in the summer of 2014, the program is designed to improve the quality of life for people after their cancer treatment. The patient’s health and wellbeing are our focus as we help them move forward into the survivorship stage of their cancer journey.

Strong and energetic

Support after Cancer Treatment

Once treatment ends, the cancer experience continues. This program is meant to help transition our patients from the busy, active treatment schedule to the ‘now what?’ period that inevitably follows.

As a survivor myself, I am experienced in cancer care and know the specific issues that survivors may face even years after treatment. Through the Survivorship Program, I serve as a “go-to gal” for cancer survivors; serving as their support coordinator who meets with each patient upon completion of their cancer treatment.

Cancer Survivor Consultation

I will review a patient’s diagnosis and treatment, and provide a personalized, condensed report of his or her treatment schedule, which can serve as a reference point in the future. Personally, I have gone through a cancer diagnosis and treatment, and as scary as cancer is, I found the after period to be the time I struggled with the most.

Typically I have a single consultation with a patient—during which time, I aim to help them re-establish a sense of normalcy in their life. We discuss any ongoing side effects, but mainly focus the conversation on becoming and staying healthy. Patients receive an individualized survivorship care plan and treatment summary, including a needs assessment and personalized care plan.

I’ll look at a patient’s overall health, outside of cancer, and see where improvements can be made that will give them a better sense of wellbeing. The goal is to help my patients refocus on themselves and to help them regain control of their own health.

Support Services at Touro

One of the greatest benefits of the Cancer Survivorship Program is the access patients have to Touro’s wide range of specialty services, including psychology, social work and spiritual counseling; customized physical therapy,  occupational therapy and speech therapy through Touro’s STAR Program; nutritional guidance; smoking cessation; palliative care and pain management; and free support group meetings.

Follow-up consults can also be scheduled, though I will often refer patients to one of the other specialists. I want to put the control back into their hands and connect them with the support groups that are available to them.

To learn more about the Cancer Survivorship Program at Touro or to schedule an appointment, contact Paula Harrelson, RN, at (504) 897-8970.

Harrelson, PaulaPaula Harrelson, RN has over 30 years of nursing experience. After experiencing a diagnosis of breast cancer herself in 2003, Paula was inspired to dedicate the remainder of her nursing career to working with others diagnosed with cancer. As Touro’s Survivorship Coordinator, Paula is passionate about helping people address their needs and regain and sense of wellness to move forward with living. 

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