An array of resources offered to breast cancer patients
Imagine this all-too-common scenario: You’re a woman who recently had a mammogram and you’re nervously awaiting your results. A day or so after the test, a doctor calls and says you might have cancer. Your next thought: “What do I do now?”
At Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, a team of expertly trained staff and physicians answer that question and many others.
Kari Richter, lead registered nurse care coordinator, heads up Fairview’s Nurse Navigator program, which has been operational for about a year.
Once a patient receives a breast cancer diagnosis, she likes to tell them, “We’ll take it from here.”
Nurse navigators direct patients to a procedure scheduler so they can get their treatments started as quickly as possible, they stay in contact with patients’ doctors, and they offer emotional support to patients and their families.
“I’ll sit down and talk with anyone who has questions,” Richter said.
Richter, a 10-year cancer survivor, noted, “Words can’t express what it feels like to be told, ‘You have cancer.’”
She doesn’t always talk about her experience with the disease, but she said when a patient is really struggling with a diagnosis, she shares her personal understanding.
“I know how hard it is, and I tell them, ‘We’re going to get through this together.’”
Richter said nurse navigators also help with paperwork and directing patients to financial resources that they might need while going through treatment.
“We help with just basic needs — there are programs out there that will help with medications, rent, mortgage and food,” she said. “Those programs are from all over the U.S.”
‘Look Good, Feel Better!’
In additional to all of the services Fairview offers through its Nurse Navigator program, it also has a program called “Look Good, Feel Better!” that helps women going through breast cancer treatment deal with the physical side effects of radiation and chemotherapy — hair loss and skin changes.
Richter, who is also a beautician, heads up the program with another beautician.
“This is just an amazing program — we go through skin care, hair care, wig care — they get an amazing free bag that has all high-end makeup like Clinique and Chanel,” Richter said. “We just spend two hours doing makeup, hair and wigs — we laugh and we cry.”
Richter said patients are encouraged to bring family members and added that the program requires registration, which can be made by calling 866-460-6550. Only patients who have been diagnosed with cancer within the past year can take part in the program.
‘I Can Cope’
Sometimes support groups are needed when battling a devastating disease like cancer, and Fairview has that resource available, as well.
The “I Can Cope” support groups meet 5:30-7 p.m. the last Wednesday of every month in a conference room at the Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming.
No preregistration is needed. Topics vary, and there are occasional speakers and special guests.
The focus of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Lani Freeman, public relations manager for Fairview Health Services, said the services Fairview offers after a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer are very important, but perhaps the more important aspect of breast cancer Fairview deals with is early detection, which leads to higher rates of survival.
Subsequently, the medical center has a focus on getting women in to have regular mammograms.
A mammogram can be seen as an inconvenience to some women or even uncomfortable, but Fairview works to quell the nerves of women apprehensive about the test.
“We try as much as we can to make it a positive appointment for them, a positive situation,” lead mammographer Tracey Brynell said. “We want to get them in, and then get them out so it’s not going to take long. When they come in, we have a private waiting area and we have coffee, water, chocolate, robes and candy.”
Brynell said a relaxed atmosphere definitely helps prior and during a mammogram.
“It’s funny because I have women say, ‘I feel like I’m at the spa,” she said. “We just try to make it comfortable.”
She added, “We want to bring that anxiety down and get them through that appointment. We don’t want this to be a terrible situation for them, because then they won’t come back. We want them to walk out of there and go, ‘That wasn’t so bad.’”