Nurses Guide to Integrative Oncology

CancerChoices is a resource for integrative oncology professionals and healthcare professionals who want a balanced assessment of complementary therapies and more. This guide is a portal for information and resources for oncology nurses.

In the service of healing

Healing and its importance to your patients

“Illness is the human experience of disease. Healing is the human experience of recovery of wholeness.”

Michael Lerner, CancerChoices Co-Founder

Curing means taking a disease or a problem away completely. Healing, by contrast, is movement toward wholeness. Curing is what we all hope for and work towards. We all know too well that a cure is not always possible. But healing is. 

CancerChoices recognizes that all people have the innate ability to heal. Healing can take place at any point in our lives. It can manifest physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually. CancerChoices believes that an integrative, whole-person approach to care increases the chances that a person will find their way to healing. 

What needs to be healed and how healing happens is unique to each person. After years of working with hundreds of people at Commonweal’s week-long residential retreats ›, we’ve seen most participants discover that it’s not the cancer that most needs healing. Healing a relationship or a past trauma, or getting out of a toxic job, may be what’s most needed. Or maybe it’s bringing the inner environment back into balance through self-care. Maybe it is coming to peace with death and dying › 

Healing is often not something done to us by others but occurs from within. Some would say healing is a movement toward our authentic and whole selves. Healing can happen both in living and in dying. Sometimes great healings take place close to the time of death.

Supporting your patients’ (and your own) healing 

Looking at your approach to care is a good place to start. Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, co-founder and medical director of the Commonweal Cancer Help program and author of My Grandfather’s Blessings, experienced this herself. Her medical education emphasized fixing people, which assumes that she sees her patients as broken.

So she thought perhaps what she is doing is helping her patients. That sounded better, but helping assumes that she sees herself as strong and her patients as weak.

In living with chronic and sometimes life-threatening Crohn’s disease, she realized that she, too, is a wounded person—a wounded healer. If she were to view herself on the same level as her patient, as a fellow wounded person, then she would be serving them in recovering wholeness. Rather than fixing or helping, she proposes serving patients in their healing. “Service is a relationship between equals.”1Remen RN. In the Service of Life.

“Our service serves us as well as others. That which uses us strengthens us. Over time, fixing and helping are draining, depleting. Over time we burn out. Service is renewing. When we serve, the work itself will sustain us . . . Lastly, fixing and helping is the basis of curing, but not of healing. In 40 years of chronic illness, I have been helped by many people and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental way. Only service heals.”2Remen RN. In the Service of Life. 

See Dr. Remen’s entire essay, In the Service of Life ›

At your own pace, you may want to examine why and how you care. Ask yourself what would support you in caring in a way that will sustain you in meaningful, fulfilling work.

Listen for the answer and look for the guidance to appear.

That guidance may nudge you to explore what needs healing in your own life.

The very self-care practices that you teach to your patients are not just for them. They’re for all of us who want to stay connected to our well-being. We’ll explore how you care for yourself in Nurses taking care of themselves ›

Author

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Reviewers

Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN

Manager at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute and CancerChoices Clinical Consultant
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Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN, has been a nurse for nearly 40 years, working in a variety of healthcare settings. She currently works in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute as the manager for Integrative Oncology and Cancer Survivorship. She works with a multidisciplinary team to deliver holistic, evidence-based support and education for patients and care partners at any point along the trajectory of cancer care. She completed the Integrative Oncology Scholars Program through the University of Michigan in 2020, is certified as an Integrative Health Coach through Duke Integrative Medicine and has a post-graduate certificate in Nursing Education from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Susan also was awarded the Planetree International Scholar’s Award in 2018 and was recognized by the Daisy Foundation for Nurse Leadership in 2021. Susan has a particular interest in empowering patients and care partners with knowledge to help drive informed decision making and educating nurses on the benefits of integrative care for patients and self-care. She has presented nationally and internationally on integrative oncology and nursing education.

She and her husband, Mark, have two adult children and a very spoiled foxhound. She enjoys hiking, knitting, cooking, and pickleball.

“As a frequent consumer of Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, and now CancerChoices, for both professional education and patient support, it is an honor to have the opportunity to engage with the dedicated team at CancerChoices to serve those impacted by this disease.”  

 

Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN Manager at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute and CancerChoices Clinical Consultant

Miki Scheidel

Co-Founder and Creative Director
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Miki Scheidel is Co-founder and creative director of CancerChoices. She led the effort to transform Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, the prior version of CancerChoices, to its current form. Miki and her family were deeply affected by her father’s transformative experience with integrative approaches to metastatic kidney cancer. That experience inspires her work as president of the Scheidel Foundation and as volunteer staff at CancerChoices. She previously worked with the US Agency for International Development and Family Health International among other roles. She received her graduate degree in international development from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College.

Miki Scheidel Co-Founder and Creative Director

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Melissa Oprish

Communication and Outreach Lead
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Melissa Oprish brings several years of experience working in marketing, content creation, and writing with a focus on wellness, parenting, and food. Melissa has been closely touched by cancer through her husband’s diagnosis and believes deeply in the power of not just physical healing, but spiritual and emotional healing as well. Melissa’s educational background is in sociology and marketing with a recent certification in holistic nutrition.

Melissa Oprish Communication and Outreach Lead

Last update: February 12, 2024

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

This guide was funded by Jonas Philanthropies, Inc.

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