Kathy Lupica has been working with brain tumor patients for the 45 years she’s been a nurse at The Cleveland Clinic. And she’s still surprised and amazed at the positive attitude she sees when patients are first diagnosed.
“As devastating as the news can be, they are just so positive. They want to know what it is and what can be done,” she says.
That attitude motivates her to do everything she can to help patients and their families as they navigate surgery, difficult treatments, and the often bewildering changes in the brain that can affect thinking, talking, emotions and personality.
She’s collaborated with The American Brain Tumor Association since becoming an advance practice nurse in the Cleveland Clinic’s Brain Tumor Center in the early nineties. That’s when she attended her first American Brain Tumor Association Patient and Family Conference and helped man the Clinic’s booth with some of the center’s marketing staff.
“I was totally overwhelmed by the number of patients and families looking for information and support. At times, people were three and four deep waiting to talk with us. I have attended almost every annual conference since.” She calls the organization a primary resource in patient support.
During the course of her involvement with the American Brain Tumor Association, she has spoken about many different topics, including living with seizures, and has been involved in several educational seminars. She depends on the ABTA for the pamphlets given to patients to help them understand available services. While a pamphlet seems like a small thing, it also can serve as a tangible lifeline to help and support.
Support could be Kathy’s middle name. She has continuously run a support group for brain tumor patients spanning nearly 30 years. That’s an incredible statistic when considering that means rarely missing a monthly meeting to help those diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“Exciting” is the word she uses to describe the research that’s now taking place. She quickly adds that wasn’t the case when she started 45 years ago as a Neuro-ICU nurse. “We have so many more options for our patients than we had 30 or 40 years ago.”
Yet, significant challenges remain, requiring medical professionals to walk a fine line between encouragement and reality. “Doctors might offer a gentle reminder that while a patient may be doing great, we need to continue to keep a close eye on them.” Unfortunately, recurrence is always a possibility as researchers strive to find a cure.
Forty-five years have also taught her the importance of teamwork, noting that none of what she has accomplished has been done alone. “I have been fortunate to work with a dedicated team of caregivers over the years here at the Cleveland Clinic.
In our 45 years, the most dramatic advances are being made now.
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