NEWS | November 16, 2016

Kindness, compassion key to cancer center pharmacy program

Medication monitoring helps patients manage oral chemotherapy treatment


Jacquelyn Conway, a mother who enjoys taking long walks and cooking organic meals, was told she had invasive breast cancer In August 2012. That began an arduous series of cancer treatments starting with chemotherapy – and a determined approach to survival.

Jacquelyn Conway Jacquelyn Conway

“I bagged up my headbands and threw out my all of my hairbrushes,” she says. “I was comfortable embracing where I was, and it was part of the journey."

Conway had a lumpectomy, six chemotherapy infusions and 30 days of radiation treatment. When doctors added oral therapies to her regimen, including Tamoxifen, she was introduced to the cancer center’s medication adherence program, which provides personal medication monitoring by specially trained pharmacists.

For patients on oral chemotherapy the adherence program provides the kind of support and monitoring that patients getting treatment in infusion centers receive, including direct communication with oncologists as needed.

As a program participant Conway receives a call every month from a member of her pharmacy team who reviews with her the medications she is taking. The calls give her the opportunity to talk about any treatment side effects or concerns she has such as possible drug interactions with dietary supplements. The information is then relayed by the pharmacist to her oncologist. 

Conway applauds the pharmacy team’s efforts to select the best medications. When the drug letrozole produced side effects, including swelling and joint pain, the pharmacist worked with the oncologist to prescribe exemestane, and when that caused headaches she was switched to anastrozole, an oral anticancer agent.

"I can purchase my medications from a local pharmacy, but I would not have a specialty pharmacist familiar with my treatment,” she says. “It is really nice having a specific oncology pharmacist who knows my case and also communicates with my oncologist on any new side effects I have.”

The program also provides delivery service to her home in El Dorado Hills when she is unable to pick up the medications herself.

Conway always feels an abundance of kindness and compassion from each pharmacy team member, she says. During visits to the cancer center she notices how much the team cares for patients and the relationships they build during a challenging time in their lives.

The program gives Conway more time to embrace all that life has to offer, including a Tai chi class. She also plans to start quilting in hopes of donating her handiwork to the cancer center’s pediatric oncology clinics. Mostly, she is enjoying the time she has to spend with her family, husband Tim Sr. and son Tim Jr.

“It gives me and my family great peace of mind that I am receiving excellent care from the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center on this unexpected journey,” she says.