Q&A: Clem Byard, Cancer Council Victoria nurse

Cancer Council nurse: Clem Byard

What’s your favourite part of the job? 

Well I love working with the other nurses on the 13 11 20 line. Their depth of knowledge and experience is amazing. They come from different backgrounds so there’s real expertise in everything from radiation oncology to palliative care, haematology to bone marrow transplants. All the nurses work part time on the lines and continue to work in other cancer nursing and supportive care roles for the rest of the week. 

Why do people call Cancer Council 13 11 20?

It really varies. Some people are after a single specific piece of information; others are dealing with complex problems that arise from cancer diagnosis and treatment. How to talk to children about a cancer diagnosis is a common one, as is financial stress caused by time out of the workforce for cancer treatment. 

Discussion about altered “body image” following surgery is also common – but of course cancer affects everyone differently, so the range of queries we get is very wide. It depends on whether the caller has, or has had cancer, or whether they’re looking to support someone else. We also get a lot of calls about how best to prevent cancer.

Tell us about your other nursing experience.

Prior to this role, I worked in the Haematology, and Adolescent and Medical Oncology wards at Peter MacCallum. I did research into supportive care at Peter Mac, looking at issues like nurse-patient communication and telehealth patient monitoring. I’ve also worked in clinical trials at the Centre for Palliative Care at St Vincent’s in Melbourne. 

Can you tell us about your work with the Healthy Living after Cancer Project?

Healthy Living after Cancer is a great new project I’m pleased to be working on: it’s a free phone-based coaching program for cancer survivors that aims to help improve their diet and physical activity. 

We know that eating well and exercising well can help reduce the ongoing side effects of treatment, reduce the chance of cancer recurrence, and reduce the risk of a variety of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. But - we also know that people often find it difficult to get back into healthy eating and exercising habits after being treated for cancer. 

And that’s where we’re hoping Healthy Living after Cancer can help. Participants receive up to 12 phone calls over a six months part of the project from a specially trained Cancer Council Victoria nurse. The nurses provide advice on current diet and exercise guidelines, and advice around self-monitoring, goal setting and motivation. 

People who have finished treatment for non-metastatic cancer within the past five years can call 13 11 20 to find out if the program is appropriate for them.

You can connect with Clem or one of his colleagues on 13 11 20, Mon to Fri 9am – 5pm, or email askanurse@cancervic.org.au any time. The service is free and all calls and emails are confidential.

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Updated: 05 Feb, 2016