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A Helping Hand After a Cancer Diagnosis

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Finding support with a cancer diagnosisHave you or a loved one been diagnosed with cancer? Treatment and improved quality of life are possible.

Every cancer diagnosis is different, as is each individual’s journey. Though there may be common (and frustrating) obstacles along the path to recovery, it’s reassuring to know you are not alone.

What is a cancer nurse navigator?

Adventist Health Portland’s cancer program is nationally accredited by the Commission on Cancer, and accreditation requires a navigation pathway be available for cancer patients to receive care without delay or hardship. Adventist Health Portland offers an experienced cancer nurse to serve as a “navigator” who acts as a patient advocate, educator, and coach to help patients complete their cancer treatments with as few bumps in the road as possible.

Dee Santella, Cancer Nurse Navigator

Dee Santella, Cancer Nurse Navigator

“Sometimes, providing practical tips, as well as a listening ear and emotional support are the best things I can do to help a person complete their treatment and become a survivor,” says Deidre Santella, RN, MSN, OCN, cancer nurse navigator for Adventist Health Portland. “I encourage my patients to remember that they are not defined by their cancer. You are still you, and you can still laugh, work and do the things you enjoy as much as possible. Accepting and adapting to the new normal of living with cancer is very helpful in successfully finishing treatment.”

How can a cancer nurse navigator help?

 At Adventist Health Portland, Santella assists her patients in many ways, ranging from transportation, translation services and insurance concerns, to attending appointments with patients if they are alone, meeting for a cup of tea, or anything to support a person with cancer following diagnosis.

“Learning about one’s cancer is deeply personal, and people cope in their own way,” Santella says. “It’s an incredible privilege and duty to be part of their journey. When we meet, sometimes people don’t know if or what questions they should ask about their disease, but people shouldn’t hesitate to ask the tough questions about cancer and their treatment plan.”

Adventist Health stresses that questions will better prepare patients and friends or loved ones of patients for the road ahead.

Santella says that after she and a patient get to know one another better and assess the road and treatment plan that’s ahead, they may share tears, laughter, prayers, and even cookies depending on the day.

The Adventist Health cancer nurse navigator can assist with:

  • Helping patients and families understand the diagnosis and treatment options
  • Communicating with doctors and the healthcare team
  • Assisting with insurance paperwork or financial concerns
  • Finding transportation services for appointments
  • Identifying local cancer specific resources and cancer support groups
  • Accessing American Cancer Society resources, such as free wigs and wig fittings

Supporting a loved one who’s been diagnosed with cancer

Every patient’s diagnosis is different, and if you’re a friend, family member or loved one of someone recently diagnosed, Santella recommends finding a way you can support them and then following through.

There are many ways you can support someone who has been diagnosed with cancer:

  • Listen and show compassion
  • Ask permission to stop by or give advice
  • Attend appointments and take notes
  • Package up pre-made dinners
  • Drive them to their appointments
  • Offer to help clean their house or do laundry
  • Make plans to go out to dinner or do something fun

 Cancer support group at Adventist Health

Adventist Health Portland holds a drop-in cancer support group the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month from 4-5:30 p.m. The free support group is for anyone living with cancer, newly diagnosed, or a survivor. No registration or fee is required.

Belonging to a support group may help reduce anxiety, depression, isolation, and improve quality of life.

For more information about Adventist Health’s cancer navigation services or the cancer support group, call (503) 261-6676.

Author: LivingWell PDX Blog

Adventist Health is committed to creating a healthier Portland community.

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