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Taking You by the Hand

You were expecting this phone call, yet nothing quite prepares you for the word “cancer.”

More tests will be needed to pinpoint the diagnosis and determine the best treatment path.

You have so many questions you don’t know where to start. For now you’re silent -- and can barely breathe.

The phone rings again. Another call from Sanford. This time it’s a nurse navigator from Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center. She’s calling to provide information and help.

You take a deep breath. This is exactly who you need today and in the months to come.

The “easy button”

“When people find out they have cancer, the emotions run the gamut -- shock, overwhelmed, angry, scared. But almost always they’re left with ‘What’s next? What do I do?’” says Nancy Anderson, Sanford breast cancer nurse navigator. “We step in, helping them wade through the maze and connect the dots.”

A navigator since 2006, Nancy now manages a team of five navigators. Each navigator:

    *Specializes in a specific cancer type including breast, lung, gastrointestinal, and head and neck.
    * Brings expertise, including a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing and extensive experience in cancer care.
    * Works closely with every discipline involved in each type of cancer, making life easier for patients and families.

An empowering difference

A key reason nurse navigation has become important is the complexity of cancer, including more types of treatment and a wider array of tests.

“There’s a lot involved,” says Nancy. “In breast cancer, for example, we arrange for newly diagnosed women to have hour-long appointments with a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist and a breast cancer surgeon even before any treatment has been determined. We want women to have all the information they need, including treatment options, so they can make an informed decision.”

It might sound simple, but a workable appointment schedule can be challenging, especially when it involves several specialties and departments, the need for appropriately timed tests and the busy lives of patients. But the result is well worth the effort.

“Convenient, well-coordinated care lightens the load for everyone, especially patients,” says Nancy. “When they get what they need in a timely fashion -- that’s success.”

The success carries over to another realm, too. Patients can get back to the lives they love, including family, work, passions and more.

A trusted link

In addition to coordinating care and providing information, navigators:

    * Prepare the way. They let patients know step-by-step what will happen next. “Often it’s a relief for them just to know what’s ahead,” says Nancy.

    * Answer questions. “A cancer diagnosis can bring heightened awareness of your body. You notice new things, triggering lots of questions. We let patients know they can call us with any type of question. If we don’t know the answer we’ll steer them in the right direction. Patients appreciate having one point of contact.”
    * Connect patients to resources. “Every person is unique in what they need from us. Some have financial concerns, others need transportation assistance. We’ve even arranged conference calls so faraway family members can be involved,” says Nancy. “We help in whatever way we can. Our goal is to enhance the journey.”

Navigators have your back

The shock has started to wear off and in its place … a whisper of confidence. The call from the navigator inspired your commitment to follow a plan and take one step at a time. There may be challenges, but you’ll work through them. There’ll be milestones -- and you’ll celebrate them.

Her call comforted you, too. You like knowing this kind, knowledgeable, helpful professional is on your team.

Breathe easier. You have a navigator.

Posted Date: December 2011