Sam Moules, 42, has been a McGrath Metastatic Breast Care Nurse for four years and is based at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney.
Cancer is the cornerstone of Sam’s career. She has worked as a cancer nurse for 20 years, a breast care nurse for eight years and a McGrath Metastatic Breast Care Nurse for four years.
“I can’t say why cancer, it was something that picked me,” Sam says.
“There were a few fascinating lectures at university that drew me in. From my first rotation as a new graduate registered nurse I did palliative care and from then on it was cancer all the way.
“You get to know patients over a period of time, it’s not like in the accident and emergency department where you treat someone and then never see them again. It’s the longevity of the care and building relationships with the patients that drew me into cancer nursing and keeps me here.”
Sam worked as a general breast care nurse before joining the McGrath Foundation as a specialist McGrath Metastatic Breast Care Nurse.
“As a nurse the support the McGrath Foundation gives you is incredible, being part of a something that is so well-renowned is an honour.”
“The promotion of the service helps with the role as well, because more people know about it. I think you don’t know the value of a McGrath Breast Care Nurse until somebody you’re close to is going through breast cancer, the value becomes a lot more apparent when you see how they can help.”
Sam specialises in patients with stage four otherwise known as metastatic breast cancer, which is incurable.
“In metastatic cases, we are there when the news is really worrying. Our role is to be in touch with patients regularly, to nurture them and support them throughout all of this,” she says.
“My role encompasses emotional support, education about treatment, care coordination in helping patients manage appointments and scans, pain and symptom management and triage of concerning symptoms.”
“I’ve had a lot of experience in supportive and palliative care. The way I describe it is the oncologist treats the cancer and the palliative care team manages all the problems it causes. Palliative care is not just about end of life.”
By the time a patient is diagnosed as metastatic, they can have seen up to 80 medical professionals. Someone like Sam turns into their touchstone, one person they can turn to who is a reliable source of practical, medical and emotional support.
“I’m here whether things are good or bad. I’m the one constant, I don’t go away,” she says.
The relationship between a McGrath Metastatic Breast Care Nurse and a patient is, hopefully, a long-term one.
“Unlike early breast cancer, we don’t stop seeing the patient because the patient will always be on some form of treatment. You do get to know the person, not just a person with cancer,” Sam says.
“When it comes to metastatic cancer, there are no timeframes. We look at what the disease is doing by keeping a close eye on bloods and scans but most importantly how the patient is feeling. It’s too difficult to predict what the patients future will look like and we never give specifics, there are too many individual and disease elements that need to be considered.
“Everyone is on their own treatment path and everyone has a story to bring to that.”