Dad’s experience of defying cancer becomes recommended resource for student nurses

Roland and Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing, Kay Lobo

A father who was diagnosed with a malignant form of skin cancer five years ago is sharing his experience with student nurses to help them better understand a patient perspective.

Roland Monger, a Business Change Manager at the University of Plymouth, was diagnosed in 2016 with skin cancer and told that he had a year to live. Following surgery and apparent recovery, he was then told he had a new inoperable tumour on his pancreas one week into lockdown 2020 – and he is now recovering again following extensive surgery to remove the tumour, his spleen and most of his stomach and pancreas.

To help keep family, friends and supporters informed on his journey, Roland started a blog back in 2016, which caught the eye of neighbour and University Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing, Kay Lobo.

She asked to record an interview with him to help her students understand a patient’s perspective of healthcare delivery. Specific sections of the interview detailed personal challenges that Roland experienced; enabling the students to explore how to develop caring and authentic communication skills and highlighting the importance of therapeutic relationships.

Now, following encouragement from his seven-year-old son, three stepchildren and wife, Gemma, Roland has turned his blogs into a book – and it is set to be a recommended resource for Plymouth’s student nurses in their first year of training.

Kay said: 

“All of our nursing students at the University of Plymouth – whether on the adult, child or mental health programmes – complete a communication module in their first year, during which we work on a range of topics to enable effective communication and person-centred care. For this and many other reasons, it is necessary that students understand a patient perspective.

“Now that his work has been turned into a book, we are pleased to recommend it to our students. Roland provides an eloquent, moving and candid account of an extraordinary journey through healthcare services. He breaks everything down into understandable and relatable content, even throwing humour in, providing invaluable learning for anyone wanting to know more about what it’s like to go through a journey that many of us can’t even comprehend.

“We got some amazing feedback about how impactful Roland’s story had been and we are delighted that his book is now widely available to other healthcare professionals to inform the delivery of patient-centred care.”

Roland said: 

“I started writing the blog as a way to process my thoughts and share my experience with friends and family without having to repeat the same conversation over and over again – it’s bad enough having cancer but talking about it all the time just adds insult to injury. Over the months and years, what emerged was that the blog was not only cathartic for me but also really helpful for lots of other people too. I hope the book reaches out to more people and enables some conversations that people might have found difficult before.

“Knowing that students are using it to support their study is really humbling, and I’m pleased that it’s supporting our health professionals of the future.”  

Roland’s book My Big Toe is Killing Me is available online, with 20% of profits going to St Luke’s Hospice.

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