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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The calming presence in the middle of a storm: A breast cancer patient navigator

Chris Ross is a 52 year old tutor from St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada who found a lump in her breast; she then had a biopsy that confirmed cancer. "I remember my first meeting with Wendy [Cyr]," says Ross. "My family physician had referred me to the breast clinic at St. Joseph's Hospital and I met with Wendy and my surgeon. There was a lot of information to take in, but Wendy had prepared a complete package explaining everything I was about to go through. I knew immediately that she was going to help me get through things; that she would be a terrific support. She has a way about her, and I just knew."

"Wendy has literally been there for me every single time I've reached out to her," says Chris. "And there was a lot of reaching out! Wendy really personalizes her approach. She helped lessen my worries and understand what to expect. I think she has a tough job – but she just knows how to interact with people, how to reach people."

Wendy can connect newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with a variety of people and resources they might need. "Dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis is complex,” she explains. "Every patient is different; some need financial assistance, some need couples counselling, others have transportation issues or need prosthetics or wigs. There are so many things, outside of their treatment, that can present as they navigate through treatment and recovery. I try to act as a consistent presence. I want our patients to know that if they call me, I will be there to assist them in whatever way I can, and I will arrange contact with the appropriate people."

Chris has completed her treatments and is cancer-free, but she is still in regular contact with Wendy. "I just love knowing that she’s there. Not a day goes by when I don't wake up and think about cancer. But Wendy keeps a close eye on me; if I call her she's right there for me to do whatever she can."

Advice to women with breast cancer: Find a navigator like Wendy.

Read another patient navigator story.

Thanks to Erin Barnes of Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation for the source story in the December issue of Hospital News.

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