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Nurse, patient bond over treatment Posted 12/15/2013

by Mike Lee Staff Writer

After a breast cancer diagnosis, Amber Dobbins-Nitzel walked into ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Edmond ready to put her life in someone else’s hands.
As far as she’s concerned, Shari Arceneaux, RN, was the perfect person to take over that responsibility.
Dobbins-Nitzel is a 37-year-old single mom raising her 10-year-old daughter while battling breast cancer. Following a 5K run in Nov. 2012, Nitzel found a lump and immediately saw a doctor the next week. The day after Thanksgiving, surrounded by family, she got the biopsy results that confirmed she had breast cancer.
Though the cancer was only in one breast, she chose to do a bilateral mastectomy followed by aggressive chemotherapy and radiation therapy at ProCure – all of it so she can be there for her daughter for years to come.
Dobbins-Nitzel received her first dose of radiation June 27. She walked in two weeks prior just hoping for the best outcome.
“Everybody was very nice and helpful. You can ask any questions. I had millions of questions and they make you feel right at home,” Dobbins-Nitzel said. “I just needed them to help me through this.”
That’s where Arceneaux came in.
“I want to make sure she knows exactly what she’s going to experience herself as a person each day she is here so I can alleviate any anxiety or fear so she can know ahead of time how she’s going to feel,” Arceneaux.
Dobbins-Nitzel has completed 28 rounds of proton radiation and is finishing up 10 treatments for scarring.
With 10 years of experience at INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital, Dobbins-Nitzel came in to her illness with a better understanding than most.
“We’re family and this is like extended family,” she said.
Arceneaux has worked at ProCure for 16 months and has 25 years as a nurse.
As a former pediatric nurse at OU Children’s Hospital, Arceneaux jumped at the chance to get better hours for her and her family. The medicine blew her way.
“I say I fell into it but I know better than that. I know that’s where I was supposed to be,” she said.
ProCure Proton Therapy Center began treating breast cancer earlier this year. One of the first patients who recently completed treatment is Dobbins-Nitzel.
Through a quarter of a century in nursing, Arceneaux has learned strategies to help her patients.
“They come in a variety of stages and a variety of different support systems and different life experiences which colors the the state they come to us. I was drawn to Amber because of her age. She’s younger than I am but I’m not that much older than she is,” Arceneaux. “And the fact she has worked in the medical field helps her. Sometimes as a nurse I try to determine where my patient is coming from  when I met Amber she had already had her double mastectomy and her chemotherapy. She had already had a large dose of medicine and treatment. Based on what she had already experienced and her own knowledge she had a lot of knowledge but it’s our job to meet her where she is.”
Where she was and where she is now are vastly different for Dobbins-Nitzel.
“It makes me stronger and appreciate life more,” she said through tears. “I just never thought I would be a patient going through something like this.”
Proton therapy is an alternative form of radiation therapy that more accurately targets the tumor and spares the surrounding healthy tissue, resulting in fewer short- and long-term side effects. There are only 12 proton centers in the nation, and ProCure is currently the only one in Oklahoma.
One benefit of treating breast cancer with proton therapy rather than with other forms of radiation therapy is that the heart and lungs get significantly less radiation exposure resulting in a decreased risk for heart and lung disease later in life.
For a young mother like Nitzel, that was all she needed to know to choose proton therapy.
As a pre-admission specialist,  it’s Dobbins-Nitzel’s job to make sure surgery patients are ready for what comes next.
She’s found herself keeping track of cancer patients who come through and asking a lot more questions now.
“I didn’t know the variety of different breast cancers,” she said.
The curiosity has led her to thinking more about her future. She hopes to enroll in nursing schools at Redlands Community College soon.

After a breast cancer diagnosis, Amber Dobbins-Nitzel walked into ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Edmond ready to put her life in someone else’s hands.
After a breast cancer diagnosis, Amber Dobbins-Nitzel walked into ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Edmond ready to put her life in someone else’s hands.
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