Story by: Rebecca Hall on May 3, 2019
During one patient’s brain surgery, Kellie Kopp, R.N., noticed the patient’s wife sitting in the waiting room alone. So she joined her.
“I couldn’t stand that she was there by herself, so I took the afternoon, and I sat with her,” said Kellie, who is the brain tumor patient navigator for Norton Cancer Institute. “We talked about everything except brain surgery.”
Kellie provides long-term support to patients diagnosed with brain cancer, often getting involved at the very beginning of a diagnosis and seeing patients through treatment and recovery. She also supports family members and caregivers, who sometimes must change their lives in order to care for their loved one.
Norton Cancer Institute provides leading care in the region through its collaboration with Norton Neuroscience Institute to treat malignant brain tumors.
“Brain tumor patients often need a lot of support due to potential cognitive or physical limitations, so their family is heavily involved,” Kellie said. “I help coordinate patient appointments with the right physicians, alleviate any concerns and answer questions patients or family members have. Norton Cancer Institute offers other support services for patients and their families, such as social workers, dieticians and behavioral oncologists.”
According to Kellie, behavioral oncologists help care for the emotional and mental health needs of brain cancer patients.
“Brain cancer is such a devastating diagnosis, so we feel everyone should be assessed by a behavioral oncologist,” Kellie said. “Sometimes patients may use this therapy to help guide them through telling their family about their diagnosis. Family members can also use this service, either with the patient or individually.”
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Kellie also educates patients about what their brain cancer or brain tumor diagnosis means, or what to expect from brain surgery.
“I love to educate and teach,” Kellie said. “As nurses, education is one of our biggest roles. There’s a moment to teach every time we interact with patients.”
Kellie spent many years of her career caring for children at Norton Children’s Hospital. When she decided she wanted a new challenge, she found she hit it off with the physicians and adult patients at Norton Cancer Institute.
“Taking care of adults is just like taking care of kids,” Kellie said. “Adults need their hand held, their questions answered, and to be nurtured and taken care of. The rewarding thing about adult patients is that they can verbalize their appreciation a lot better than kids.”
Despite the heartbreak that sometimes comes with working with brain cancer patients, Kellie is grateful for her team and proud of the amount of time and care given to patients by their physicians, nurses and other providers.
“When you deal with oncology, you have to be positive,” Kellie said. “Many of our brain tumor patients have an incurable diagnosis, so we focus on what we can give them, which is time and quality of life. We let them know there are other treatment options, and if one doesn’t work, we can try something else. The most important thing we give them is control over the decision-making in their journey.”
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