Oncology care has interested Associate Professor of Nursing Linda Goodfellow throughout her career as a nurse and educator, and for her, cancer-related research began in earnest with her doctoral dissertation.
With an interest in psychoneuroimmunology, how the body's immune system responds to psychological stimuli, she
undertook an investigation into the link between stress and the activity of natural killer cells, white blood cells that appear to play a role in suppressing tumor formation.
"What I needed to do was to find a stressed group of individuals, because we know that stress affects immune system functions, but what we don't know is exactly how that's done," says Goodfellow
aimed to work with cancer patients, but their immune systems are atypical, making it unlikely that she
could obtain the data she
It could be instructive, Goodfellow
reasoned, to direct attention to the spouse, a stressed, but presumably healthy, caregiver for a cancer patient.
developed a research study that introduced a common, low-cost relaxation method-massage-to determine what effect it might have on immune function, specifically natural killer cell activity, as well as other physiologic and psychosocial variables.
Over the years, she
has garnered a number of grants for research related to learning about the factors that cause and alleviate stress in cancer-patient caregivers.
Caregivers' stress levels, says Goodfellow
, can be intensified by the fact that cancer patients are spending less and less time in the hospital after surgery or treatment.
"It's important that we keep caregivers healthy because the cancer patient is going home very quickly," she