Difficult Conversations Podcast
Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician
Episode 111 | September 29, 2020
Giving Back - When the Patient Becomes the Provider
Lauren Heaslip, RN
Pediatric Oncology Nurse, Cincinnati Children's Hospital
Welcome to Difficult Conversations-Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. This week is extra special because my guest is extra special to me. My niece, Lauren Heaslip, is joining me to share her incredible story. I promise you that you won’t want to miss this one. Lauren Pender Heaslip was born prematurely at only 31 weeks gestation. That’s 9 weeks early! Her mother had a condition called Placenta Percreta, which caused her to hemorrhage profusely. After an emergency Cesarean Section was performed. both mother and daughter clinging to life kept alive by ventilators. Happily, they both survived.
At the age of sixteen, Lauren needed emergency surgery to reconstruct the cervical vertebrae in her neck. Two weeks later, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was forced to face another medical challenge. Lauren shares how she and her family didn’t let the diagnosis define her and how she continued to live a life of normalcy. Thankfully, she is cancer free and remains cured until this day. Currently, Lauren is twenty-four years old and is working as a registered nurse in the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology ward at the Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati, treating children with cancer.
Lauren tells us her story starting when she was a happy sixteen year old, playing sports, feeling healthy, and then the neck pain started. She remembers hearing her doctor and her parents talking in the hallway and heard the word “tumor.” She clearly remembers her first conversation with the doctor, when she was told she had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She shares her story with us. Lauren describes the instant bond she felt with the doctor, who became her primary oncologist. Dr. Orsini explains the three most important goals doctors should have when giving bad news. Lauren tells us about her first conversation with her parents after and the story of how her doctor kept reminding her at every visit that, “Your life does not stop, and your life cannot stop because of this.” Lauren tells us a story about her prom and the side effects of her chemotherapy. She also tells us how she decided what type of nurse she wanted to be, and about the impact that one of her chemotherapy nurses had on her decision to become a pediatric oncology nurse. Lauren tells us how she uses her experience as a former cancer patient to help her patients and how she decides whether or not to share her story with her patients. She gives an AMAZING answer! Lauren shares personal insight on how she speaks to her cancer patients. She gives advice to any teenager who was just told by their doctor that they have cancer. She also gives advice to doctors and healthcare practitioners about how to give bad news to someone. If you enjoyed this podcast, please hit the subscribe button to find out more about what we do and how we teach communication. Go ahead and download this episode now!
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Lauren Heaslip (2s):
My advice to a teenager who would just got the news to keep on living your life, keep on being a teenager,
keep on doing what you like to do. Tell your doctor what is important to you, what you want, what milestones
do you want to be there for, what you don’t want to miss. Now, unfortunately, some things you are going to
have to be in the hospital for and you are gonna have to miss something. But having that conversation with
your doctor of “Hey this is really important for me”.
Lauren Heaslip (32s):
Because when, as a patient, if you get to do what you enjoy and you get that spark, of I got to go to my
favorite movie this weekend? Or I got to go to my prom. There are going to do better in treatment because
they were happy. You are getting to live your life too. You are not so down inside. And I truly believe that like
a positive outlook in a positive attitude is what is going to get you through that and get you through it.
Lauren Heaslip (1m 4s):
You know, well. So keep on living life. My advice for doctors and healthcare practitioners that anyone that is
there giving bad news is just to try and put yourself in that family’s position. Try to just remember what you
are telling, but remember that you are dealing with the human and that human side of it and how you would
want someone to tell you, or your loved one.
Announcer (1m 34s):
Welcome to Difficult Conversations Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Dr
Orsini is a practicing physician and the president and CEO of the Orsini way. As a frequent keynote speaker
and author, Dr. Orsini has been training healthcare professionals and business leaders. How to navigate
through the most difficult dialogues. Each week, you will hear inspiring interviews with experts in their field
who tell their story and provide practical advice on how to effectively communicate.
Announcer (2m 7s):
Whether you are a doctor, faced with giving a patient bad news, a business leader who wants to get the
most out of his or her team members or someone who just wants to learn to communicate better, this is the
podcast for you..
Dr. Orsini (2m 17s):
Well, welcome to another episode of Difficult Conversations Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician this is
Dr. Anthony Orsini and I’ll be your host today. Well every week. I’m thankful to have the honor of interviewing
one amazing guest after another. We have had physicians, HR executives, life coaches, and patient
experience experts, and every time I do an interview, I leave feeling inspired. And I learned just so much.
This week is extra special because my guest is extra special to me.
Dr. Orsini (2m 49s):
And that’s not only because she’s an incredible young person with an incredible story, but also because she
just happens to be my niece. Now, a bit of a warning to my audience, as of, you know, especially people who
know me, well, I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not sure if it’s that Italian gene, my father and
grandfather tended to get emotional, especially during happy times. So it was sort of a public service
announcement. The level of pride that I feel four, my niece Lauren is through the roof and her ability to
triumph over life challenges better than people twice her age is beyond incredible.
Dr. Orsini (3m 25s):
So if my voice quivers it a little bit, please, excuse me. Lauren Heaslip was born prematurely at 31 weeks on
March 21st, 1996. She is the fourth and youngest daughter and my brother in law, Tom Heaslip and
sister-in-law Catherine Heaslip. That very first day of spring of 1996, started. Off in a New Jersey is a very
uneventful, but that would not last long after being confined to bed, rest in the hospital for Placenta Accreta a
condition that occurs when the Placenta attaches through the uterus and into other organs, Katherine and
began to hemorrhage profusely a STAT cesarean section would be required in order to save the life of both
mother and baby.
Dr. Orsini (4m 9s):
A few minutes later, Lauren Pender Heaslip was born at three pounds, 11 ounces, and 31 weeks gestation
at a small community hospital, not designed to care for a very sick and premature infants. As Lauren was
placed on a ventilator and transported to a level three neonatal intensive care unit, her mother, Katherine,
and also remained critical, due to massive blood loss. Catherine clinging to life on a ventilator at one hospital
while Lauren was transferred on a ventilator two another one, but by the grace of God, both mother and
daughters survived and Lauren survived and is doing well.
Dr. Orsini (4m 46s):
Lauren spent nearly six weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit before being discharged. She continued to
do well and excelled at everything that she did. Then on new year’s Eve in 2012, after receiving an x-ray for
a painful neck that showed her cervical vertebrae extremely unstable, she was rushed to Children’s hospital
of Philadelphia for emergency surgery to reconstruct her neck. One cough or sudden movement, Lauren
could have been paralyzed for life. Two weeks later on January 16th, she was diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s
Dr. Orsini (5m 23s):
And once again, Lauren now a thriving and accomplished 16 year old, would be forced to face and other
medical challenge. As is Lauren and her family, her diagnosis and second medical challenge did not define
her as she continued to live her life with as much normalcy as possible. And Thankfully after 19 rounds of
chemotherapy and all of those side effects associated with the treatment Lauren was cancer-free and
remains cured until this day. As is Lauren she rebounded it even more strongly and went on to graduate
Duquesne university with a bachelor of science and health science in December of 2017.
Dr. Orsini (6m 1s):
She then continued her studies and received her nursing degree at the very competitive school of nursing of
Duke University and graduated in May of 2019. Lauren is currently working as a registered nurse at
Children’s hospital of Cincinnati where she works in a pediatric hematology, oncology ward, treating children
with cancer. What an amazing story.
Dr. Orsini (6m 30s):
Welcome kiddo, its just a great to have you. So excited to have a special person. I just read your bio. So
you’re going to be surprised when you hear it. I didn’t want you to hear it because if I read it in front of you, I
might cry. Cause I’m so proud of you. So I want to read it now, but how are you doing things are go
Lauren Heaslip (6m 47s):
Things are good. Thanks for having me here. I’m honored to be here.
Dr. Orsini (6m 50s):
How’s your job going?
Lauren Heaslip (6m 52s):
It is great. I love it so much. It’s crazy to believe that I’m there now. And every day I still get shocked at
where I work and what I get to do. And I just love it so much.
Dr. Orsini (7m 6s):
And we’re going to talk about the specifics of your job and why I think that you have so much to offer later
on. But first I just, you know, we talked about your challenges in life during the intro and your too little to
remember when you are a premature baby. So you don’t remember anything about that. I do know your story
and I mentioned it in the bio. Let’s go to the point where you were 16 years old and just kind of hanging out
and thriving and playing sports.
Dr. Orsini (7m 37s):
And you were having some neck pain right right?
Lauren Heaslip (7m 40s):
Yeah, I was playing sports. I was normal, healthy. Everything was fine until the neck pain started. And at first
no one really thought anything of it. I didn’t really think anything of it when back and forth with our athletic
trainer and everything seemed fine. I was healthy just having some pain, but it was playing sports. So I, that
can be expected at times. And it just progressively got worse and worse and worse over the course of two,
three months and still was playing sports, all of that.
Lauren Heaslip (8m 18s):
And all the doctors I went to physical therapist, the athletic trainer went to my primary. Everything was
checking out completely fine. And I still looked healthy. All blood counts, all that, everything looked
completely normal. So it was all just chalked up to maybe a sports injury or something, until it wasn’t.
Dr. Orsini (8m 40s):
So all of a sudden you get your x-ray and I know you went through a couple hospitals where you ended up at
Children’s hospital of Philadelphia and you had to have emergency surgery. And I think your parents always,
even though you were 16 years old, but they never really hit anything from me. Right. So tell about the
conversation that you remember when they told you that you had to go into emergency surgery.
Lauren Heaslip (9m 2s):
Well, that all kinds of started with them not hiding anything from me as well. Before I got to CHOP, I was at
another hospital in Philly and I was alone in the room. I was stuck, but on my back because of my broken
neck and one was letting the move and one of the doctors took my parents out into the hall and talked to just
my parents out in the hall. And I couldn’t hear much that they were saying, but I heard the word tumor and I
don’t remember too much else after that.
Lauren Heaslip (9m 36s):
But after that I told my parents, I said anything that they have to say, I want to hear it. I want you guys to talk
about it in the room because it’s happening to me. And I want to know, I don’t want it to be hidden from me,
anything like that. I kind of put that out there and I was like, I wanna know. And I don’t want you guys to talk
about it in the hall. I want to be told in front of me because I don’t even know if at that hospital, they really
said anything to me after that they sent me to CHOP.
Lauren Heaslip (10m 8s):
And to be honest, we don’t really remember much about being told, having to go into surgery or any of that. I
was admitted, I believe straight to the ICU at CHOP to go through halo traction and to prepare for the
surgery. It took, I think at least a day to prepare for surgery.
Dr. Orsini (10m 27s):
So your parents came in and told you, that was difficult conversation number one. Your parents were the
ones that told you that about the tumor that it might be cancer or was it the doctor?
Lauren Heaslip (10m 37s):
That’s the part I don’t remember all too much. By that point I had the MRI done outside of Philly and had
about probably at least a two hour ambulance ride all the way to Philly. I was stuck flat on my back. They
weren’t letting me eat. I was miserable. I was in pain. I was uncomfortable. So a lot of that time between
finding out that my neck was broken and waking up from surgery, I don’t really remember much.
Lauren Heaslip (11m 8s):
Especially once I got admitted to the ICU, they had all kinds of painkillers and everything to make me
comfortable through halo traction, because that’s a painful experience. So a lot of that time, so I really don’t
remember much of like who have exactly told me. I remember hearing the doctor in the hallways, they had
tumors. And I think that point and you know, where I was just laying there, I wasn’t fully processing a lot. And
I remember thinking that, you know, to me and in my 16 year old head tumor meets cancer.
Lauren Heaslip (11m 41s):
But part of me was thinking like, well, that can’t be right. Like I, I can’t have tumors. Like I don’t have cancer.
And that’s really, my aunt had come in and was just telling me like everything was going to be okay.
Everything’s going to be okay. And that’s really everything I remember from before surgery.
Dr. Orsini (12m 1s):
Then two weeks later in January, that’s when they told you that you had non Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Correct?
Lauren Heaslip (12m 8s):
Yes. Then that conversation, I remember like it was yesterday.
Dr. Orsini (12m 12s):
So that’s what this whole podcast is about. So tell me about that conversation and comment in the eyes of a
16 year old.We had a doctor Michel Neier on this podcast. she’s pediatric oncologist. And she, and I
specifically asked her about how you speak to teenagers about cancer. And she had so much insight, but I
want to hear it from you. So tell me everything you remember about that conversation and what helped you
and what you think might of gone better.
Lauren Heaslip (12m 41s):
So going into the whole thing, I had come back because they had a biopsied and what was on my liver. And
before that, I was kind of thinking, you know, I was back to the point of, I think I’m okay. Like they fixed my
neck, something’s wrong, but they had ruled out so many things. And the doctors have been calling by
house and my parents every single night to let them know here’s what we’ve tested, here’s what we’ve ruled
out. Here’s what we’re going to be looking at next. And they just weren’t finding the answers. So that’s when
they called me in for the biopsy and I had to stay after.
Lauren Heaslip (13m 15s):
And it was the day after the biopsy and it was late in the evening. My dinner had just arrived. I was really
excited. I got some fajitas, the food at CHOP. It was very good. And my doctor walked into the room and it
was just the general oncologist. So he didn’t continue to be my doctor throughout the rest of the year. And I
knew immediately that they knew something and that it wasn’t the best news because it was his day off. And
he had come back in.
Lauren Heaslip (13m 47s):
So I knew, and I remember thinking like he’s in normal people, clothes, like I knew what was his day off too?
I was like, can you just came in to tell us something? So that kind of sugared me right away. I know that you
guys know something and it can’t be great. And he told us that the biopsy had come back, that it was non
Hodgkin’s lymphoma and he let us sit there for a minute. And he said, I’m going to give you guys a few
minutes to process. And then I’m going to come back and sure enough, I, you know, my dad and I sat there
and I cried a little bit and then was like, you know, in my 16 year old head again, I don’t think I fully
processed it right there.
Lauren Heaslip (14m 31s):
In that time. I started eating my dinner again, because that was really hungry. And sure enough, probably not
even five minutes later that doctor came back with who becomes my primary oncologist, Dr. Susan,
Reingold. And she is an incredible person. I look up to her so much. So she comes in and she asks me, she
goes, Hey, Lauren I, she, she introduces herself and asks me what I was just told, which I think it was one of
the greatest things she ever could have done because if she didn’t make me say it out loud, right there, then
I may never have.
Lauren Heaslip (15m 12s):
That was what truly made it real. And I had to say that again. He said, I have cancer. And I started crying
again. And immediately she just put my nerves and my fear at ease. She said, no, no, no, this is a good
thing. We know what it is. We know how to treat it. We have your entire treatment plan laid out already. And
if plan A doesn’t work, we have plan B and if plan B, it doesn’t work. We have plan C, and just immediately
putting that in and putting it in the perspective of we have a plan and we know what are going to do put me
at ease is as well.
Lauren Heaslip (15m 51s):
And saying like, okay, yeah, this, you know, it may not be good news, but we can treat it. Now we have the
answer. And that was the big thing that’s happening. The answer,
Dr. Orsini (16m 3s):
It sounds like from what you were saying, he felt this immediate bond with her in a partnership. And you
know, in my book we talk about it. So there’s a couple of things that, from the story that makes me feel good
because, you know, I teach the stuff through. We teach breaking bad news. I teach communication and have
written a book about it, but it makes me feel really great when I have patients who kind of validate what I’m
teaching, because fortunately I’ve not had cancer, but I worked with parents who have lost, loved ones who,
who have lost babies, et cetera.
Dr. Orsini (16m 34s):
And what she did there are to you was she reviewed and she made sure that you knew what was going on
before she moved forward. And I don’t know how long was that conversation. It doesn’t sound like it was
very long, but you formed that instant bond with her.
Lauren Heaslip (16m 48s):
Yeah, absolutely. I don’t think, I don’t remember exactly how long it was, but it definitely wasn’t an hour long
conversation. It was probably only 10, 15 minutes, you know, to introduce herself. You know, she is the
leukemia lymphoma attending doctor at chop. I’m going to introduce herself to say that she’s going to be the
oncologist and kind of let her know that we have that plan. And then moving forward in days after that, we
had much, much longer meetings and all that.
Dr. Orsini (17m 16s):
And CHOP has an incredible place. And when I teach breaking bad news and communication, there’s three
goals that we want to meet when we first give bad news. And one is, we want the patient to feel that
compassion that we have for them. And that is genuine. It’s not fake. And correct she passed that first one?
Or two, we want too, for the physicians that nurses out there that we want the patient to feel that we are the
expert in the room that I got your back.
Dr. Orsini (17m 47s):
And I always say, the patients should feel that they could figuratively put their arms around your shoulder
and you will lead them to the next step. Clearly she did that. Correct? Absolutely. And then third is, she is not
going to leave you. So a great example of a difficult conversation that went well from an amazing physician.
And I think that it says a lot about your frame of mind. I know you and your family, obviously you guys are
related to me. I know you guys are a very positive. How does the first conversation go with your parents after
Lauren Heaslip (18m 17s):
My dad, so my dad was one that was there. My mom just as unfortunately was one of the one nights that
she went home, but my dad was the one staying with me that night. And he has said, you know, looking
back on it that you had to play off my strengths and that I had to fully admit this now, was in a state of denial,
I think for a lot of the year. And just kind of like pushing through you do what you have to do and you’ll get
Lauren Heaslip (18m 50s):
But also that whole risk of mortality in all of that, I don’t think really hit me as a 16 year old. And that may be,
he understood more. So being older and looking at his child now hearing that diagnosis, I can only imagine
what it was like for him hearing that, but him seeing that I was okay with it and that I was okay, that they
played off that. And I don’t think my parents and I ever had like full on conversation, but we all just kind of
went into the like, okay, like we are going to do this.
Lauren Heaslip (19m 23s):
Here’s what Dr. Reingold says that we got to do. And here’s what we are going to do. And she is, this may
be jumping ahead a little bit. But one of the main reasons we really love her so much is because she started
everything with Your life does not stop and you’re life can not stop because of this. And you have to keep on
being a teenager. You need to keep on living life, keep on doing the things that you love to do, and that’s,
what’s going to get you through.
Lauren Heaslip (19m 54s):
And so that’s what we did. You know, I was lucky enough to be outpatient for all of it, but I got to keep on
going to school throughout everything. I got to keep on a somewhat playing sports. I was still on my sports
teams, but couldn’t really play, but was still in my sports teams by my family was able to go on the yearly
vacation that we always went on my prom, my driver’s test, my birthday, like all kinds of things. I thought that
fell while I was undergoing cancer treatment, she would make sure that I was feeling good for.
Lauren Heaslip (20m 30s):
I remember having to ask her my birthday and my driver’s test fell on a Friday and I got all of my treatment’s
on Fridays. So I remember asking her, it was like, well, doctor, I’m going to go. I’m supposed to take my
driver’s test, but I have chemo that day. Is there any way that we can do it a different day in? She was like
100%. Absolutely. You’re going to take your driver’s test. You’re going to pass, are going to get your license.
And she led me switch it to that following Monday.
Lauren Heaslip (21m 0s):
And it wasn’t, wouldn’t normally be her clinic day that she was there. She would be on the inpatient side are
some other side, but she would make sure I was able to get my treatment that day and come meet me, have
our doctors appointment that day, do all of that, which really, I think set the tone for everything and let us to
get through it as well as we were able to.
Dr. Orsini (21m 24s):
And much is written about the advantages, have a positive attitude when you’re faced with any adversity and
you and your family, you certainly have that. It sounds like Dr. Reingold helped you to do that. And you did
well, your cancer free, but it wasn’t easy. And I don’t want people out there to think that it was easy. You did
have all the side effects of chemotherapy and I’m sure you were sick more than you would let people know,
but you pushed through, you went to your prom. Tell me about that.
Lauren Heaslip (21m 53s):
I think the prom wasn’t as bad because I was already going to school bald, but going into school bald was
the big thing. One night, I, that was like the biggest thing I was dreading. You know, I knew it was going to
lose my hair. I really didn’t want too, but one night it just got way too annoying to deal with and it falling out.
So I woke my parents up and said, it needs to go, I need it gone. It needs to go. Two days later, it was
Lauren Heaslip (22m 23s):
We call it the crew in my sisters came home from college. Some of my cousins came over and my uncle
shaved my head. And that following Monday, going into the school, that was the day that I was scared to do,
because I was like, well, everyone in school knows that I’m sick, but I didn’t really look that sick, but now I
have no hair. And I tried the wig on, we had a wig, I tried it on and I think it spent all of five seconds on my
head and I immediately took it off and said, that’s not me.
Lauren Heaslip (22m 55s):
I can’t do it. That’s not my hair. It just didn’t feel right. So going to school that Monday was tough, but it, my
two best friends walked into school and my mom or dad drove us to school that day. They walked in with me
and I actually had a whole crew of people waiting for me in school, celebrating with me and just so excited
for me and showing all of that support. So it was weird at prom to, you know, not have that problem hairstyle
and do all of that. But I felt like at that point, that almost felt more normal because I had been doing it
Lauren Heaslip (23m 31s):
Dr. Orsini (23m 31s):
That’s fantastic. So you graduate high school and you decided to go to Duquesne, or when you went to
Duquesne university, you were not sure that you were going to be a nurse yet, or you’re still weren’t sure.
Lauren Heaslip (23m 42s):
I still wasn’t sure at that point, I knew, I always knew I wanted to go into healthcare and nursing. I always
admired nurses, especially after the ones that I had, but still going into a hospital. It made me nauseous, just
walking in the smell is a of it. I had been in a hospital way too much in the last year before that. And, and
then there was some fear of I couldn’t do nursing. It, it was to hard, you know, my last year and a half of high
school, we’re really not.
Lauren Heaslip (24m 16s):
I wasn’t fully there in my head. I was going through cancer treatment or I was sick before that. So I went in
as an occupational therapy major, still have so much respect for occupational therapists. I love that career.
But two years into college, it was after my sophomore year, I was studying in for one of my occupational
therapy classes. And it was like, you know, this isn’t really what I want to be doing. It’s the nursing side of it,
but I really want to be doing that is what I felt more drawn to.
Lauren Heaslip (24m 49s):
And I was terrified to tell my parents and to make that switch of switching by a major that’s a huge thing to
do, but it was truly nursing that I felt drawn to and that I have a passion for.
Dr. Orsini (25m 3s):
So and so typical of you, you don’t go to any nursing school, you go to Duke. And one of the highlights in my
last decade was visiting you at Duke and getting to go see a basketball game. There are people who know
me know that I’m a huge Duke fan. So thank you for picking that place. I probably would have never gotten
to get to see a basketball game. So you go to Duke and you do really, really well. And the conversation that
you had with yourself about, okay, what kind of nursing I want to do? Was it natural that I’m going to do
pediatric oncology, or was that a difficult decision for you?
Lauren Heaslip (25m 34s):
It was a really difficult decision. It did not come easily. I had endless conversations with friends of mine,
professors, mentors I had from clinical instructors and people from the hospital. It was something that was
always on my mind. I had a nurse from when I was inpatient in the hospital. I believe it was like right after my
diagnosis. Cause it was when I was going to preparing for my first chemo treatment, all of that.
Lauren Heaslip (26m 5s):
And she was my nurse for three days in a row. And on her last day, she tells me, she goes, Lauren, you are
going to be alright, you’re going to get through this. I was there one time to, and she had pulled up her scrub
pant leg and she had a prosthetic leg. She never had to tell me her whole story. She never really had to say
much else. And at that time I don’t think I like, you know, fully realized what that did for me. But looking back,
I was like, well, that is also who showed me and who I had in the back of my head to see that there a life
Lauren Heaslip (26m 45s):
Going like through that and going through the years, sometimes it feels like, how can you ever be normal
again? Or what is my life going to look like after I’m done with this? And I think I always had her in the back
of my head. I was like, well, no one is going to know afterwards, but when life is going to be normal, I’m
going to be fine. So I always thought it when I was making my decision, I was thinking I’ve heard two. And
I’m like, you know, she knew what it felt like from you to be there in the hospital. And she knew what it’s like
to get chemo, all that kind of stuff.
Lauren Heaslip (27m 17s):
So that definitely contributed to my decision and how that impact that I could hopefully one day have on my
patients and families. I had some other fears though, of just, you know, the same smells that I experienced
in accessing ports. And I know what that pain is like and giving chemo, you know, what would it be to close
to home? Because yo still face some nightmares and stuff of people coming in with the same symptoms that
you had and some symptoms that maybe, you know, I feel a twinge in my back and it scares me of do I have
it tumor again?
Lauren Heaslip (27m 53s):
And I know in my head that I am not going to relapse, I’ve passed my five year Mark. You know, my doctor’s
are not concerned about me relapsing, but I have those fears of is it going to be to close to home, to treating
kids that could be, you know, basically me laying in that bed. But after a lot of conversations with family
members and mentors from school and friends, I felt that I could handle it mentally and being in there and
that I could have a lot to offer to these kids and families.
Dr. Orsini (28m 29s):
Again, you take the hard road, you didn’t take the easy road. So you make the difficult decision. You want it
to stay at Duke, but there was no opening. And once again, you don’t take the easy route. You just pick up
and go to a city that you’ve never been to before or a city that you don’t know anyone. Right? And you are at
Cincinnati children’s hospital, one of the best children’s hospitals in the country, actually. So a big shout out
to them. So first year at CHOP, but amazing children’s hospitals as a patient. And now you go to Cincinnati
children’s hospital and your working with Pediatric Hematology kids and Oncology.
Dr. Orsini (29m 1s):
And so now you’re treating cancer. And some of the cancer that you’re treating his might be the same cancer
that you’ve had. As you said, you were worried about doing that and how you would feel with that. I work
with a lot of parents that have lost children and when we teach doctor’s on what to say and I work with it, a
lot of physicians who try not to get emotional and don’t know how to answer questions about what they
would do in this particular situation. And I often tell him, tell them that if you’ve gone through a similar
situation and nothing is the same, nothing’s exactly the same.
Dr. Orsini (29m 36s):
There’s no two cases that are same, but if you lost your mother from a particular type of disease, and now
you’re treating a patient that talking to a family that has the mother with the same diseases, you can say, you
know, I’ve been through that. I have little babies, we’ll have seizure disorders. And for those people don’t
know I had a seizure disorder when I was a child that was on. I don’t even know if you know that Lauren do
you know that they do from your book? Oh, from the book. Okay. So I was on a seizure medications until I
was 12 years old.
Dr. Orsini (30m 6s):
When I say to a mother, I had seizures too, when you look at me and they said, well, what he’s doing well,
he’s fine. And it makes them feel a little better. It doesn’t mean that every baby with seizures is going to do
well in, it certainly doesn’t mean that every cancer patient is going to go do well. But how do you use your
experience as a cancer patient to help your patients and how do you decide whether to reveal that or not
reveal it at all? Or is it a special relationship that you just feel it
Lauren Heaslip (30m 34s):
A little bit of that, just like that feeling that I know it’s a really hard decision whether to disclose to a family
that or not. And I really try not to, because it’s not about me, it’s about them. And I don’t want to ever
disclose that and make them think that I’m trying to make it about me because it’s not, it’s completely about
them. It’s also difficult because on the inpatient side, we see a lot of our kids, especially being at Cincinnati
children’s, and this would be a similar case with all top hospitals and programs.
Lauren Heaslip (31m 11s):
We see a lot of multiple relapses, second, third, fourth opinions, people who travel hundreds and thousands
of miles to come be treated with us, that a lot of times outcomes are not going to be favorable for the child.
But then we also do have our freebie, ALL kids that are going to get better and do have favorable outcomes.
But it’s difficult in that situation because you don’t want to give too much hope to, a family whose kid, you
know, as a practitioner that is not going to do well, or is likely to not going to do well.
Lauren Heaslip (31m 55s):
But a lot of times with you, the kids that do have a favorable outcomes, or just in times where families need
that hope and need to see that they’re is going to be another side of it, that they are going to be okay, they’re
going to do what they need to do. A lot of families, I have seen that, they kind of question chemo, and they
see chemo as, is it, and how can I get this poison two, my kid, but it’s their only option.
Lauren Heaslip (32m 28s):
And it’s OK. It is kind of a poison, but it kills what it needs to kill and it does the job. So that’s kind of another
side that I can kind of like tell them and say, look, you know, like, well, I’ve been through it. Like I’ve gotten it
and I’m okay. What is, and isn’t the best way to see chemo as a it’s a treatment. And its one of the only
options that they have. I try, like I said, not to disclose it all that much just because it’s not about me, but I
feel like that I can use my experience as a guiding point of how I was treated or how I would want to be
treated if I were in that position and just being there for a family and sitting there to listen with them or to hold
a hand, whether it’s the patient’s hand in the kids hands or the parent’s hand as a pediatric nurse, as much
as I’m a nurse to the little kiddos that are lyin in the bed, but it also to the parent.
Lauren Heaslip (33m 25s):
So a lot of the time and having those conversations with them and sitting there and listening to them and
they have so many more fears then the kid does because a lot of times the kid doesn’t really realize it fully
what’s going on.
Dr. Orsini (33m 38s):
Oh my God. That was an amazing answer. And so if you weren’t paying attention, cause you were doing
something else and you’re listening to this podcast rewind and listen to that answer again because it was so
great. And I think that the take home, we promised the audience are two things to be inspired. We’ve already
had that and to learn. And I think that the learning point from what you’ve just said was you have to read
your audience, right? You have to know what the situation is. And you may have a patient who has a very
favorable diagnosis of cancer that is very favorable and that is not handling it well is super depressed.
Dr. Orsini (34m 15s):
Everybody has different personalities. That would say you bring your personality wherever you go. So they
may be too depressed and you need to make them feel a little better. And that may be a point where you say
I had it too. And I did okay. Someone who doesn’t wanna take chemo, like you said, I took it, I got through it.
You know, kind of encouraged them to do that. Same thing with me when I have a, baby’s having seizures
with severe brain injury, I’m certainly not going to, that’s not an appropriate time for me to say, Hey, I had
seizures too, because it’s just not the same thing.
Dr. Orsini (34m 45s):
So part of the pro G R a M acronym that I use in the book, there’s a plan and you have a plan and then while
you’re in the room, you’re constantly seeing, you know, how’s the patient reacting to you. And so there’s
people that are just extreme worriers and they get so depressed even though you know, that it’s, they are
going to do well. And so that’s a gift that you can give them. And this situation that I wouldn’t be able to give
them, you know what it’s like to take chemo. Even if you don’t tell them that you had chemo, you know what
Dr. Orsini (35m 17s):
And so the difference between empathy and compassion is imagination and that’s who you go from,
empathy to compassion means to feel pain. And you can’t do that with your patient, unless you have an
imagination, but you don’t need to imagine what it’s like to have chemo. Right? You know what it’s like
chemo. So I think the world has a better place because Lauren Heaslip went into the pediatric hematology
oncology. And I do believe that. And I think the easy is not always the best way.
Dr. Orsini (35m 49s):
And I think the easy way for you would be to just like, I’ve never going to think about this again. I’m going to
do something else, but that’s not in your DNA. And I’m just so proud of you. Any advice that you want to give
any person out there who is having a difficult conversation with their doctor? Give me one last advice to a
teenager who is just told by their doctor or their mother that they have cancer. What would, what advice
would you give them? Not an easy question.
Lauren Heaslip (36m 15s):
No, it’s not my advice to a teenager who just got the news to keep on living your life. Keep on being a
teenager, keep on doing what you like to do. Tell your doctor what is important to you. What milestones do
you want to be there for what you don’t want to miss? Now, unfortunately, some things here are going to
have to be in the hospital for, and you’re going to have to miss some things. But having that conversation
with your doctor of, Hey, this is really important for me because when, as a patient, if you get to do what you
enjoy and you get that spark, of I got to go to my favorite movie this weekend?
Lauren Heaslip (36m 58s):
Or I got to go to my prom. We are going to do better in treatment because your happy. You are getting to live
your life too. You are not so down in sad. And I truly believe that like a positive outlook in a positive attitude is
what is going to get you through that and get you through it. You know, Well so keep on living in life. My
advice for doctors and healthcare practitioner, that any one that is ther giving bad news is just to try and put
yourself in that family’s position.
Lauren Heaslip (37m 34s):
Try to just remember what you’re telling. Remember that they are a human. A lot of times, I think in practice,
it’s easy to just have your list of tasks and want to check them off and just do what you need to do and then
get out and move on to the next one. But remember that your dealing with a human and look at that human
side of it and how you would want someone to tell you or your loved one. What you’re about to do the news,
whether it’s bad news that someone has cancer or even just something that may be an inconvenience to
them of, Oh, you have to get this medicine now or you have to be in the hospital for another day.
Lauren Heaslip (38m 16s):
It was just always remember that there are a human and trying to look to that side of it too.
Dr. Orsini (38m 22s):
There is no way that I can end any better. Then with that, that’s just an amazing and buy the way everyone,
if you didn’t do the calculations does young ladies only 24 years old. And you’ve just learned more from her
about living life and communicating and helping people when they need us the most. And so I couldn’t be
more proud of you. Lauren thank you so much for coming on this. I can’t wait to see you again. Next time we
have a family reunion, but I could not be more proud of you. So thank you again.
Lauren Heaslip (38m 50s):
Thank you for having me
Dr. Orsini (38m 53s):
If you liked this podcast, please go ahead and hit subscribe and download all of the past episodes. If you
want to learn more about the Orsini Way you can reach me @TheOrsiniWay.com. Just hit the contact list.
We have a new podcast episode dropping every Tuesday and I hope to see you again next week. So thank
you everybody. And thank you again. Lauren
Announcer (39m 11s):
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Dr. Anthony Orsini
Lauren Heaslip, RN
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