Patient advocate and friend
Empowered life choices. End of life quality. We foster a greater understanding of the capacity that end of life decisions have to nurture the human spirit.
Linda Feldmann is an early supporter of Life Matters Media and a passionate health care professional, having served as a nurse for more than 20 years with Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Feldmann has cared for patients facing breast, pancreatic, liver, gastrointestinal, esophageal and colorectal cancers.
How did you first hear about Life Matters Media?
I know Randi Belisomo really well.
I was a nurse for her husband when he had surgery. After everything that happened with Carlos, I knew Randi was very passionate about informing and educating people on how it is OK to say someone is dying. To say that word.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
I became a nurse because my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in college. It was a time when you did not question doctors — they were on pedestals and like gods. My parents are kind of from the old school era where you did not ask questions, you just took it.
My mother is doing fine, but it was a life-changing event. I wanted to become a business person — make a million dollars, get my name on a building, be important — but I became a nurse. I never envisioned this to be my life.
What have you learned from being a nurse?
I learned that patients feel more in control and empowered when you make a partnership with them.
Nurses can be great advocates for patients. You work for patients, not necessarily the system.
You care for patients facing many types of cancer. Is it difficult?
I started out in the breast cancer unit, ironically. My mom had been a breast cancer survivor.
I ended up working with the director there for about 10 years. When she left, I went on to gastrointestinal oncology.
My number one cancer was pancreatic cancer. I got to know a lot of people, go to a lot of funerals. It is heavy stuff. I think I just kind of got burned out after years of that.
I am now working in interventional gastroenterology endoscopy. I am also playing with the idea of a startup company to educate patients about medical animations that help explain complex medical procedures.
Have you had frank end of life conversations with your patients?
Sometimes you need to pay attention to the elephant in the room. What do you really want?
Everybody wants to live for a million years, but let us recognize the situation, even if we are going to cry a little bit. What are your goals for quality of life? What do you want with the time you have?
How many people actually have that conversation? It takes time. It takes a lot of time.
I think it is becoming easier to have such conversations. People are becoming more open to them. In the past, it was like, ‘If you can do it, do it.’
Now, I think people realize that just because you can do something does not mean you always should do something. There are a lot of gadgets, there is a lot of stuff. It is like, ‘What are you doing?’ Hope and frustration can be expensive. You can really bait someone who is desperate.
Quality of life matters more than quantity?
It is not all about quantity, but quality. This is where people should weigh the risks and benefits of treatment.
You have some people who are 85-years-old who say they do not want to have any more surgeries. They would rather get medicinal marijuana, go on vacation, take a big family trip and go on their way. I’m like, ‘Thumbs up! Congratulations.’
You advise dying patients to trust their gut?
It is taxing to share your story, because everybody wants to tell you how to fix yourself.
I think you have to be true to yourself and center yourself. Take inventory of what you value. Do not get caught up in the tornado of what everybody else thinks. It is almost spiritual. What do you want?
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