San Antonio (March 9, 2004) – They listened to Eileen Lundin, who chronicled the challenges of life after breast cancer. They listened to Ray Osoro, who described the surgeries he underwent for nose and lip cancers. They listened to five San Antonians living with chronic illnesses. Then students in Laurie Singel’s course at the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio decided to do something about it.
The students signed up to run as a team in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Race for the Cure, which is set for Saturday, March 27, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. “They were so moved that they wanted to honor the three cancer survivors in the panel group,” said Singel, assistant professor of nursing. “They internalized the whole idea of overcoming the stigma of chronic illness.” Singel is the coordinator for “Strategies for Professional Nursing: Chronic Health Transitions,” an upper-division course offered in the School of Nursing’s baccalaureate degree program.
Each semester, panel members give up their time to help with the students’ education. They speak at the beginning of the course, before the more technical aspects are taught. “As nurses, we see these people when they are sick and in the hospital, and we try to get them back to where they were,” Singel said. “My course is meat and potatoes, things like medical surgical content, chest tubes and so forth. But this is about people who have had a stroke or setback from cancer or diabetes or other disease but who have too much to do to stop living their lives.”
“We are living with illness, and that’s the point of it,” Lundin, 62, said. “We address the class about our issues of day-to-day living and what we expect of the nurses who come into contact with us.” Lundin herself is a nurse who was the administrator of the Health Science Center’s General Clinical Research Center for eight years before retiring in 2000. She is a seven-year survivor of cancer. “This gives student nurses a look from the other side of the bed sheet. I am an educator for the Komen Foundation and go around the city doing talks about breast cancer. I let people know that the diagnosis of breast cancer is not necessarily a death sentence. People need to know the earlier it is found and treated, the better the chances are that they will continue on. Some cancers have become very treatable. You can have a normal life after cancer.”
Osoro, 56, said he wants to do anything he can to help people with cancer. A former U.S. Navy diver who had other careers after his military service, he was diagnosed in January 2001 with malignant nasal cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the nasal bone structure at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio. In May 2002 he had a second surgery for a tumor on his lip. His third surgery was for a recurrence of the nasal carcinoma.
“I’ve had all the radiation I can take,” Osoro said. “But I never feel better than after one of those sessions with the student nurses. These are the nurses of the future. Each year I speak to two classes of 100 students each. When a nurse takes care of a cancer patient, she is taking care of the whole family, not just the patient. That means she is taking care of four to five people. If a nurse has 10 patients a week, she is actually caring for 50 people. Multiply that over 10 years and you can imagine how many people she serves. These students don’t realize the impact they will have. If I can make one nurse feel what I have felt, and in some way inspire her to continue what she is doing, I feel I have made it. That’s what I live for.”
The public can sponsor the students in the Race for the Cure by making a donation to team members atwww.sakomen.org/site/TR?pg=team&fr_id=1000&team_id=1250. “By doing it, you will sponsor a future nurse and send a positive message to him or her that instills the ethic of community service and caring for patients,” Singel said.