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Celebrating the nurses who care for men with prostate cancer

When men are treated for prostate cancer, they work with an extensive healthcare team. Central to that team are the nurses who care for them before, during and after treatment.

Judy Weir – Urology Nurse, Calgary

Judy’s graduation picture
from nursing school,
circa 1973

Judy has been caring for men with prostate cancer, particularly after they have surgery, at one of Calgary’s largest hospitals, Rockyview General, for 25 years – she began working in the urology department the same year Prostate Cancer Canada began: 1994.

“These men are so appreciative of any help you give them,” says Judy. “I focus on getting them over surgery and getting better. When the pathology report comes back about two weeks after their surgery, we can deal with whether further treatment is required. But right after surgery, we focus on healing and getting back to a normal life as much as possible.”

Then and now: A nurse’s perspective

Judy has seen firsthand how care has changed over the years. “There’s more ‘watch and wait’ now, rather than treating everyone with surgery. There are new machines that do very specific imaging to pick things up.”

She’s also noticed that the recovery time is significantly less. “It used to be that they were in the hospital for a week to recover after getting their prostates out. Of course, at that time, everything was open surgery.”

Now, surgeries are ‘keyhole surgery’, which means doctors make smaller incisions and use a laparoscope, a long fibre optic cable system. This means patients can get back to their new normal sooner than before, including getting them up and moving, and getting their bowels moving – doctors won’t let men leave the hospital until this happens.

Caring for men after surgery

A big part of Judy’s job is teaching patients how to care for themselves once they leave the hospital.  “We teach men how to care for their catheter at home, which drains urine from the bladder, and how to deal with their leg bag, which is strapped to their legs to store the urine until it’s emptied.”

Many need emotional as well as physical support. “Some days are worse than others, and there are always days that feel like you’re going backward instead of forward,” she says. “So I let them know that this is normal and it will all come with time.”

Judy says she gets many hugs and ‘thank yous’ from men and their families upon discharge from the hospital – a testament to the type of care they receive. “I’ve always wanted to be a bedside nurse so I can look after my patients and be able to talk with them.”

Judy has helped treat hundreds of men with prostate cancer and their families. And she hopes that eventually fewer will have to face the disease. “I can only see good things in the future with robotic and laparoscopic surgeries. I hope patient stays will be much shorter, that they recoup much faster. It seems like we’re on a good trend right now. Hopefully younger fellows won’t need surgery quite so early. Of course it would be good if they found a cure – for every type of cancer.”
From left to right: Judy’s daughter, Mikaela; Judy;
husband, Les; daughter, Melissa
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Posted: 2019-05-02 3:19:05 PM


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