Nurses’ caring support eases treatment for leukemia patient

When Laura Beisser first visited the bone marrow transplant unit at HonorHealth Cancer Transplant Institute, she was nervous and afraid. Doctors in the emergency department suspected she had leukemia, so she had been transferred there and anxiously awaited an official diagnosis.

 

One of the first faces Laura saw was that of Carrie Pearson, BSN, RN, a nursing supervisor in the unit.

“She arrived with her mother by her side, and they were both understandably scared,” said Carrie. “I was able to spend some time listening to them both and discussing what they could expect to happen in the coming hours and days.”

Soon after, Laura learned that she had biphenotypic acute leukemia, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that is difficult to treat.

“I was rushed to HonorHealth’s bone marrow transplant unit and just trusted them,” said Laura. “I really had never heard of blood marrow transplant or leukemia, so I never needed to know my options. What transpired from there was world-class care and the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.”

Abraham Kanate, MD, a hematologist and medical oncologist and Laura’s primary attending physician, led her care team at HonorHealth Cancer Transplant Institute. The institute provides leading-edge care for a wide range of non-cancerous blood disorders and blood malignancies, including various types of leukemias, lymphomas and myelomas. Dr. Kanate works alongside other physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and social workers. They meet weekly to discuss all their patients’ treatment plans and come to mutual decisions about their care as a team.

Rochelle Chiffelle, a nurse practitioner in the bone marrow transplant unit at HonorHealth Cancer Transplant Institute, was an instrumental caregiver for Laura throughout her treatment.

“I helped Laura through her induction chemotherapy, her lumbar punctures and her bone marrow biopsies,” said Rochelle. “We worked together to try to find ways for her to get through therapy and deal with the challenges a life-threatening illness and intense treatment bring.”

The nursing staff at HonorHealth Cancer Transplant Institute works with patients like Laura to help them manage the rigors of treatment and protect them from side effects and potential complications.

Laura is grateful that she found the bone marrow transplant unit at HonorHealth, even though she’d never heard of it before. “I now shout from the rooftops about how wonderful HonorHealth and the nurses are, because I’ve lived it first-hand,” said Laura.

Laura later received a stem cell transplant at HonorHealth Cancer Transplant Institute. Throughout her various treatments, Laura spent a lot of time at the institute and got to know the nurses who cared for her.

“Laura and I became friends throughout her diagnosis, treatment and transplant,” noted Carrie. “During that time, we weren’t able to allow visitors on the unit due to COVID-19 risks for our immunocompromised population, so it was especially lonely for our patients. All of our team members really stepped up to try to support our patients to make up for the absence of visitors.”

Unfortunately, Laura’s leukemia returned six months after her transplant.

“When she relapsed, my role was really to listen, review the goals of her care and help Laura understand her options,” said Rochelle. “We had to explore the implications of the hard decisions she is faced with.”

Laura has transitioned to receiving palliative treatments, including a targeted therapy, transfusions and medications to help her avoid infections. She is receiving supportive counseling from a social worker at HonorHealth Cancer Transplant Institute, as well as support from the all the team members she has gotten to know.

Because of the special connections she made with her care team, Laura has been raising money to support the bone marrow transplant unit at HonorHealth and the patients it serves.  

Dr. Kanate credits the nursing team members at HonorHealth for bringing comfort to Laura as her leukemia has progressed.
    
“People who gravitate toward nursing in oncology and stem cell transplantation are very special,” said Dr. Kanate. “This is sometimes a very difficult job to do, and we are absolutely grateful for their work and service. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without their care and compassion.”